Talaq riposte silences police
An extraordinary feature of the protests against the new citizenship regimen has been the stellar role played by women.
The following is an account narrated by a middle-aged woman, who was booked for participating in a dharna in Lucknow, on the tactics allegedly being deployed by Uttar Pradesh police to intimidate the protesters and their families. In this particular case, the police appeared to have been outsmarted by the family.
The police have not confirmed that the incident took place. Under normal circumstances, The Telegraph would not have reproduced snatches of conversation attributed to a third person without corroboration.
But the nature of the exchange and the details — plus the backdrop of chief minister Yogi Adityanath suggesting that “cowardly men” are forcing “their women” to the frontline of the protests — are such that they do not appear entirely inconceivable. Besides, the account offers an insight into the way determination and a wry sense of humour can run rings round those in authority.
This newspaper is withholding the identity of the narrator who might face retribution if named.
Police to woman protester: You are violating Section 144 (of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which bans assemblies of more than four people) by gathering in large numbers at the dargah (Ganj Shahida Dargah at Gomti Nagar in Lucknow).
Woman to police: You have already registered a case against me. I can now sit here on dharna along with the other women till you arrest me and put me in jail.
(The policemen then allegedly went to her home in Gomti Nagar and met her husband. Asked by this newspaper, Amit Kumar Dubey, station house officer of Gomti Nagar, said: “We are not sending police to their houses. Why should we do that? We don’t need to send police to any protester’s house.”)
Police to husband: Stop your wife from sitting on dharna against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
Husband to police: I had asked her not to go there but she wouldn’t listen to me.
Police: She is your wife and will listen to you.
Husband: She is not under my control.
Police: Scold her; act like a husband.
Husband: Should I threaten her with the triple talaq?
Police: Do whatever you want, but stop her from protesting.
Husband: I think I should pronounce the triple talaq on her. But there’s a problem: the Narendra Modi government has passed a law making the pronouncement of the (instant) triple talaq a punishable crime. She will file a case against me. You are asking me to punish her but, later, you will come again to tie my hands and put me in jail.”
The woman, on dharna since Monday, grinned as she told the story.
“The policemen retreated after this conversation with my husband,” she said. “The police and the state government believe that our husbands are behind our protest. We cannot make them understand that we are doing it on our own.”
She went on: “My husband never discusses politics with anybody. I didn’t ask him before sitting on this dharna and he never asked me why I was doing it. But these servants of the state government cannot understand that we are democratic people, within the family as well as the nation.”
Another protester at the dargah said: “We know that the government will not listen to us but we also know that we will drive them away in the next election and save democracy.”
About 100 women and children were at the protest site in Gomti Nagar on Friday.
A bigger protest of over 6,000 women and children has been continuing at Lucknow’s Ghanta Ghar since January 17.
Here the police have been accused of trying to spread the misinformation that chanting “azadi” (freedom) is illegal and that anyone mouthing slogans containing the word would be removed forcibly.
Undeterred, the women and children were on Friday chanting: “Hamein chahiye azadi, Ambedkar-wali azadi, Gandhi-wali azadi, Bhagat Singh-wali azadi (We want freedom, Ambedkar-style freedom, Gandhi-style freedom, Bhagat Singh-style freedom)….”
A large number of women are on dharna at the Mansoor Ali Park in Allahabad too.
A senior officer said on the condition of anonymity: “We have been directed not to make any comments on the women’s allegation. However, 950 women have been booked in the state for violating Section 144 or for rioting. We will remove them from the protest sites if they are heard chanting anti-national slogans.”