Nasreen Javed Lucknow Social Activist

‘Police FIRs, Arrests Can’t Break The Spirit Of Dissent’

Nasreen Javed, 32, from Lucknow says the unfair methods used by a repressive state, like police FIRs and arrests, cannot crush the spirit of dissent in Indian democracy

Lucknow Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb ke liye jani jati hai. Yani yahan log ek doosre ki izzat karte hain, ek doosre ka sath dete hain (Lucknow is known for its inclusive culture and people here respect, support and take stands for each other). The government has tried its level best to break this cohesiveness, but they haven’t managed to so far. Nor have they managed nor will they succeed in breaking the spirit of young activists like Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita, Asif Iqbal Tanha, my fellow protestors or me.

The government had perhaps thought that if they arrest or unnecessarily hound youngsters, they might rot in jail for the rest of their lives, but the collective soul of India is far greater than the hatred that is brewing in it right now.

I have always raised my voice against injustice and untruth, but with CAA- NRC protests, I ensured that my voice is heard loud and clear and it doesn’t slow down. I was one among the group of 11 women who started the CAA protest at Ghantaghar in Lucknow and participated for 66 days in a row. With a three-month old adopted daughter in tow I braved it all. I have nearly eight to ten FIRs against me, all for taking a stand during the CAA- NRC protests. But I am not scared. I am not doing anything wrong.

Nasreen Javed with fellow protestors in Lucknow

Police acted in heartless manner to break our last year’s protests. Our blankets were taken away extreme cold; our food wasn’t allowed to reach the protest sites; they would pour cold water on the bonfires. I still remember an amber reaching my hijab and singing it when cold water was poured on the fire to put it out. But they cannot pour cold water over our spirit and dampen it.

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Even if I have to go to the jail for this cause I am not scared. Sach ki takat alag hoti hai, uska jazba hi alag hota hai (Being on the side of truth lends you a different kind of courage). Perhaps we have the same courage, same spirit that our freedom fighters had during the Freedom Struggle. We are freedom fighters.

The police have been unrelenting in trying to find ways to break our spirit, but so far we have also managed to hold on. As Natasha Narwal said, having strong family support gives you the courage to carry on with your fight for truth. There were times when the police would wake my in-laws in the dead of the night and ask them to bring me to the police station (while I was at the protest site) or they would be arrested. Why hassle old people?

Anti-CAA protestors hold indefinite fast in Lucknow

I go to the court for hearing every 15 days and even with the fear of Covid-19 lurking everywhere I am standing strong. A life that has meaning in it is worthwhile. Thank God my family understands why I feel so strongly about CAA-NRC. It is about ‘exclusion’ while our Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb and even India at large is about ‘inclusion’.

We are raised in a way that we are taught to include. I wonder what’s going on in the minds of our leaders. They were subtly/indirectly saying that persecuted people from other countries, from communities other than Muslims would be granted citizenship. But can the government also ensure that their living standard would become better? What about the living standards of the people already settled here? Dialogue is the need of the hour.

As Told To Yog Maya Singh

‘We Celebrate Festivals Of All Religions But Diwali Is Special’

Noor Afshan Mirza, a 24-year-old HR professional in Delhi, goes home every year to celebrate Diwali with her Hindu friends and neighbours in Lucknow. This city gives you best of both worlds, she tells LokMarg

I am currently working in Delhi, but whenever I think Diwali, I think home, which is Lucknow. Call it the influence of a city that prides itself on the confluence of cultures, the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb, or just the way my parents, especially my mom, brought us up, Diwali is very close to our hearts.

My younger brother and I have always been big on celebrating Diwali and go all out in ensuring we have maximum fun. My mother runs a boutique and on all the festivals, be they of any religion, I get brilliantly stitched new suits. So Diwali also means new suits for me.

My parents have taught us that the true worth of a festival is in it being celebrated with people. So right from my childhood, every Diwali my mom and I as part of the NGO we have been running for long, take lots of chocolates, mithais, candles, a few small crackers etc. to slum areas in Lucknow, so that no house remains unlit on the special night. The poor can’t afford fancy lights, so we make sure we can gift everyone a little brightness. This year it has been a little difficult to carry out the exercise because of the pandemic.

Noor loves Rangoli competition event in office ahead of Diwali

As I moved from my school life to my professional life, I realised I could make more people feel included and involved as an HR professional. You know how HR professionals are responsible for organising festivities in offices. Diwali has got to be my favourite festival to organise, and among these, Rangoli competitions my favourite. But this year our office has very few people coming in, so few festivities in office this year.

Every year I take chutti on Diwali and run off to Lucknow. Last year I had the best Diwali celebrations ever at my mother’s friend, Sunita Aunty’s home and I am super-excited to be a part of her Diwali celebrations again in Lucknow this year.

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Of course the festivities will be organised differently at her home this year, keeping social distancing and other measures in mind, but I am sure it will still be as much fun. The tenants at our home are all Hindus and together we cook and make rangolis, deck up the terrace with diyas and gorge on mithais. I am so glad I get the best of both worlds, Islam and Hinduism. I take beauty and grace from wherever it is available.

Among all this I forgot to add that on chhoti Diwali my mom and I go to the Shaheed Smarak at Lucknow and light candles as a mark of respect to those who went before us.

It wouldn’t be out of place to say that Diwali is also the day I celebrate my mom, her spirit of resilience and the capacity to see beauty everywhere. Without her liberal upbringing we would have never known just how beautiful the world is or can be.

She is the light of my life and someone who constantly helps me walk on the path of enlightenment. In our family we love to laugh a lot, and a smile can light up everything around it. Even if not a single cracker is allowed, nobody can take away a cracker of a smile or an explosion of laughter. Happy Diwali!

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