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Hauz Rani Protests

by , 27 Mar 2020

By Huma Sheikh

Peace, I say and walk into the tent of polyester fabric hung from wooden poles. What I don’t say is that I see a concentration camp here. The 35th day of sit-in by protestors of the Citizen Amendment Bill (CAB).

The CAB, bigger than a pick-up wagon to haul Indian Muslims from India.

A Muslim woman in a black abaya is reciting prayers. Allah hum sab ko sehan sakhti de, Sab taraf aman-chain ho . . . May Allah give us strength. Peace. It’s Maghrib prayer time. Other women on willow and Styrofoam mats recite the prayer in unison.

These women, like bare branches of a lone tree here in Hauz Rani at Gandhi Park, coil about themselves. Colorless.

One woman protester puts her arm around my shoulder, “Aren’t you Afghani? Why isn’t Modi kicking you out? You weren’t even born here.” I don’t tell her I am Kashmiri.

Is there a difference between her and that Kashmiri woman I saw in the Select City Mall the other day? Not really a lot, I think to myself, as her Kashmiri face races across my eyes.

She wasn’t looking at me but at the beautiful spring bodies of women in short dresses and men in bermudas drifting down the line of stores— until I heard Kashmiri words under her breath: amis chuna garam gasaan ath jacketus manj, yuta taap hei chu: isn’t she feeling hot in the waistcoat when the Sun is so low across the sky.

Her daughter sat between us and didn't glance at her. She was talking softly like her mother, who beheld my jacket out of the corner of her eye: Quiet down, quiet down.

They don’t know I am Kashmiri. My mother and I have the same style of talking. I watched the daughter as she cleverly shook off her legs dangling over the ground. I folded mine up on the concrete seat around the Peepal tree.

Now here at the park, tied to the tree--frayed, soiled posters of Gandhi, Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh.

Everything starts smelling good like the Peepal tree out of its small Kashmir world and every branch of the Gandhi tree here blossoming with the other. The abayas and sarees swaying broadly this way and that, the branches sliding back and forth between raised fists of sisters and daughters, dadis or grandmothers, bob haired and long haired LGBTQ activists in khadi jackets and kameezes. These real brown princesses are more than just the fictional characters of Alderaan, Princess Leias of Star Wars dominating the men’s series.

I sit among the tinted branches.

 

The author is originally from Kashmir, the war-torn region of India. She is pursuing a PhD at Florida State University. 

Her essays and poems have appeared in various journals, newspapers, and magazines

Hauz Rani Protests

By Huma Sheikh

Peace, I say and walk into the tent of polyester fabric hung from wooden poles. What I don’t say is that I see a concentration camp here. The 35th day of sit-in by protestors of the Citizen Amendment Bill (CAB).

The CAB, bigger than a pick-up wagon to haul Indian Muslims from India.

A Muslim woman in a black abaya is reciting prayers. Allah hum sab ko sehan sakhti de, Sab taraf aman-chain ho . . . May Allah give us strength. Peace. It’s Maghrib prayer time. Other women on willow and Styrofoam mats recite the prayer in unison.

These women, like bare branches of a lone tree here in Hauz Rani at Gandhi Park, coil about themselves. Colorless.

One woman protester puts her arm around my shoulder, “Aren’t you Afghani? Why isn’t Modi kicking you out? You weren’t even born here.” I don’t tell her I am Kashmiri.

Is there a difference between her and that Kashmiri woman I saw in the Select City Mall the other day? Not really a lot, I think to myself, as her Kashmiri face races across my eyes.

She wasn’t looking at me but at the beautiful spring bodies of women in short dresses and men in bermudas drifting down the line of stores— until I heard Kashmiri words under her breath: amis chuna garam gasaan ath jacketus manj, yuta taap hei chu: isn’t she feeling hot in the waistcoat when the Sun is so low across the sky.

Her daughter sat between us and didn't glance at her. She was talking softly like her mother, who beheld my jacket out of the corner of her eye: Quiet down, quiet down.

They don’t know I am Kashmiri. My mother and I have the same style of talking. I watched the daughter as she cleverly shook off her legs dangling over the ground. I folded mine up on the concrete seat around the Peepal tree.

Now here at the park, tied to the tree--frayed, soiled posters of Gandhi, Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh.

Everything starts smelling good like the Peepal tree out of its small Kashmir world and every branch of the Gandhi tree here blossoming with the other. The abayas and sarees swaying broadly this way and that, the branches sliding back and forth between raised fists of sisters and daughters, dadis or grandmothers, bob haired and long haired LGBTQ activists in khadi jackets and kameezes. These real brown princesses are more than just the fictional characters of Alderaan, Princess Leias of Star Wars dominating the men’s series.

I sit among the tinted branches.

 

The author is originally from Kashmir, the war-torn region of India. She is pursuing a PhD at Florida State University. 

Her essays and poems have appeared in various journals, newspapers, and magazines

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