‘Shaheen Bagh Inspired Kadru Bagh In Ranchi’

Khushboo Khan, 32, explains how she used her HR skills to recreate a Shaheen Bagh-like site in Ranchi’s Kadru area where women have been holding sit-in protests since January 19

Ranchi is a small city when compared to Delhi or Kolkata. Women here are also a little inhibited in coming out on street to protest. However, people have realised that this is a momentous time when one needs to show the courage to speak up. Ab nahi bolenge, to kab bolenge? (If not now, then when will we speak up?)

Therefore, inspired by the brave women from Shaheen Bagh, our committee, named Hum Bharat Ke Log (We, the people of India) started to come out and register our protest against Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizen. Our protest began on January 19, at a small ground near Haj House in Kadru area. As we are growing in strength, we have named it Kadru Bagh, so that people know our resolve is as strong as that of our sisters from Shaheen Bagh.

ALSO READ: Cops Bully Us… But Ghanta Ghar Protest Is On

We are protesting against CAA-NRC not only on the grounds that it is discriminatory, but also because we believe that our country isn’t equipped to take on any more people from outside and be able to give them job opportunities, health benefits etc. For, our own countrymen are not getting jobs, access to good health, transport facilities etc. We have slid down as a country on various indices, right from economic growth to women’s safety (a huge issue in Jharkhand), to food safety etc., but the government is busy trying to create a rift between communities to hide their failures.

I worked as a human resource professional for many years before I decided to quit and launch an NGO called ‘She’ that imparts vocational training to women. I must admit that my HR skills came handy in leading this protest against the divisive CAA-NRC. I have been coming here every day for 12 hours and with each passing day people are attending in huge numbers. We are braving 4-5 degree Celsius temperature and some of the protesters are having health issues too but we are ready to risk everything to be heard.

ALSO READ: With CAA, Modi Has Woken Up A Sleeping Tiger

Ever since this (BJP) government came to power, we as Muslims have been at the receiving end of communal taunts, snide remarks and insulting messages. We remained silent at many instances when our community was directly targeted: the Triple Talaq law, abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir and the court verdict on Ayodhya. But we decided to break our silence when Citizenship Bill was passed because we saw this an attack on the Constitution and constitutional rights of the people.

It is heartening to see common people from all religions protesting against CAA-NRC, because frankly everyone can read between the lines when it comes to this government.  Human beings are losing precious lives and peace in this situation. This government knows only raj (to rule) and not neeti (policies). It must learn to engage with people sincerely. The media must also help the government in its engagement with the people. For now, Shaheen Bagh has shown us the way, and we are going to follow the path of truth sincerely and tirelessly.

ALSO READ: Mothers Are At Shaheen Bagh For Their Children

‘I Can Live With A Bad Throat, But Not Burning Eyes’

Pappu Yadav came to Ranchi when he was 18 and began plying a hired auto rickshaw. During his seven years in the city, he has earned enough and now owns his own passenger vehicle. But the City of Waterfalls, he tells LokMarg, has many pitfalls too, starting from the heavily polluted air.

I spent my childhood in Buxar, Bihar. All those years, I was oblivious to what air pollution was.  Buxar ki hawa to sona hai sona (The air quality in Buxar is excellent). When I turned 18, I came to Ranchi and started driving autos. These seven years in the City of Waterfalls have shown me different facets of the life – some of which I have enjoyed. What I dislike here the most is the city’s polluted air.

After buying my own auto, I try to put in some extra hours. Now, I drive from 8 am to 10 pm and a take a break after every three hours of driving. Earlier, I needed maybe just two breaks during the whole shift but now constant exposure to high levels of pollution tires me easily. I also have headaches during winters, if I have been driving in densely populated areas for long.

The real problem starts when my eyes start burning and watering. We drivers can handle coughs and heavy breathing, but it becomes really problematic when eyes get affected — it hampers our driving. Also, given the fact that visibility is anyway low in winters, we need to take special care of our eyes to be able to ‘keep a good eye on the road’.

I often splash my eyes with water during the day. There’s no other way that I know of to protect them. People, who earn their livelihood on/from the road are more susceptible to breathing problems as well as issues related to the eyes. I wish all my fellow auto drivers understood this and followed green norms in times like these.

After all, everyone, even their children, have to bear the brunt of the increasing pollution levels. There is an emotional cost of pollution too, that no one talks about. After a stressful day on road, we expect some peace and quiet at home. But many a times, we get irritable and might not have enough patience to deal with household matters.

Our family members, especially children need our love and patience the most. I have heard people in Delhi people are being advised to go out only if it is extremely necessary on days that the smog reaches dangerous levels. In case of such an advisory in Ranchi, people like us would be damned both ways. If we go out we suffer from the numerous ill-effects of pollution and if we don’t, we lose our livelihood. And if very few people come out on the roads, who will pay us?

NOTE: The air pollution levels in Buxar the auto driver’s hometown might be low, but the groundwater is arsenic laden. However, he didn’t seem to be aware of the groundwater contamination in his hometown because of the lack of extensive and sustained media interest in pollution levels of small towns.