Salaam, Shamima Bi

Saba Dewan for BeyondHeadlines

I have been thinking a lot about a 19 year old college going girl lately. If I had a daughter she might have been around the same age. These thoughts invariably lead me to her mother. I have never met Shamima Kausar. All I know about her is gleaned only from newspapers and television. And a portrait emerges of a hard worked, hard pressed woman struggling after the death of her husband to take care of her home and children. Her hopes lay in her daughter, Ishrat; not the eldest and yet amongst all of Shamima’s children the one most capable and eager to shoulder some of her responsibilities.

ishrat-mother Ishrat was Shamima’s pride. She was intelligent, dutiful and responsible; working long hours after college to help her mother run the house. And then Ishrat was abducted and murdered in cold blood by none other than the police force of the powerful chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi. I have often wondered about Shamima’s grief when she heard the news. And saw that awful photograph of what we know now was a staged encounter, a state sponsored crime. Ishrat lying stone dead cold on a highway along with three men killed in the same fake encounter. No mother should have to ever see a photo like that. But for Shamima there was no avoiding it. The grisly picture was splashed everywhere. On television, in the papers, over the net. Worse, Shamima and her family had to endure the horrifying ignominy of Ishrat being falsely maligned and slandered in death for being a terrorist out on a mission to kill Narendra Modi.

For any mother this would have been a nightmare. It must have been for Shamima too. She could have lost her mind in grief and frustration. Instead she chose to fight for justice. Justice for Ishrat. Where did she find the courage to take on the police force of one of the most powerful men in this country? Where did she find the resilience to persevere for nine long years in her quest for justice when the truth seemed to be lost forever? I look at Shamima’s photos. I get my answer in the dignity that emanates in that homely, round face. The quiet resolve that shines in her eyes. And I hear music. Music that to me has spoken always of the beauty of the human spirit, of courage and of the eventual victory of truth over falsehood.

This one is for you, Shamima Bi. Salaam



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