Mumbai, Oct. 13: Students from around 15 schools in Mumbai’s suburb of Mumbra today held a march in solidarity with Malala Yousafzai, scripting a rare Indian rally in support of a Pakistani hero.
Malala, a 14-year-old schoolgirl in the Swat Valley who champions the education of girls and publicises Taliban atrocities, was shot and grievously wounded by Taliban gunmen on Tuesday.
The Mumbra girls and boys, most of them about the same age as the Pakistani activist, held placards that said “I am Malala” and shouted slogans against terrorism.
Photographs of Malala pasted on their school uniforms, they walked from a mosque to the local railway station, where some of them delivered speeches.
Not many among them appeared to know too many details about Malala’s campaign beyond the briefing their teachers had given them. To them, she was a girl who had been attacked for “wanting to study”.
“We were told that Malala is a girl as young as us who was attacked by terrorists in Pakistan because she wanted to study and promote education. I do not know much about her but I know that what she is doing is right,” said Uzma, a Class VII student from Holy Fatima School.
Another student from the same school, Rabiya, said: “Why should anybody stop girls from studying? I want to grow up and become a teacher so that I can teach girls too.”
Many residents of the suburb, which has a large population of Muslims, lined the streets to watch the march, often stopping the students to ask questions.
“Was the girl attacked in Mumbra?” an onlooker asked pointing at the photograph the students were carrying.
“She is from Pakistan,” a boy answered. “She was shot at by terrorists because she wanted to study. The terrorists think girls should not be allowed to study.”
“Why are you protesting here, then?” asked a lady, not satisfied with the reply.
While the students did not have the patience to answer all the queries, the organiser of the march, Nationalist Congress Party leader Jitendra Awhad, said he was happy to have stoked a discussion.
“These students might not have known about Malala even if she were all over the news. By asking them to participate in the march, we have initiated a discussion,” Awhad said.
“They may not understand it all, but at least they will discuss it with their parents.”
A lady whose daughter studies in Class X at the Symbiosis school in Mumbra said: “I do not know much about Malala. I do not know why they (the Taliban) think what she was doing was wrong. My daughter has read about her and prepared a speech.”
She added: “We think every girl has the right to be educated. I hope that my daughter grows up to become a doctor.”