A Win for India’s Diversity: Shaheen Bagh’s Bilkis Dadi is on TIME’s Most Influential People List

Social Commentary

A Win for India’s Diversity: Shaheen Bagh’s Bilkis Dadi is on TIME’s Most Influential People List

The TIME Magazine list of the world’s 100 Most Influential People is out for 2020, and three Indians are featured. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and actor Ayushmann Khurrana making the list is not surprising, given their fame, power, and influence, the third Indian personality earned her place on the list through sheer resolve and an inspirational display of courage. The 82-year-old Bilkis, popularly known as “The Dadi of Shaheen Bagh”, was named one of 2020’s Most Influential People because of her undaunted participation in the sit-in protest at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, where women spent over 100 days protesting the Central government’s Citizenship Amendment Act.

Bilkis is one of the many women who joined the sit-in protest, becoming a symbol of resistance against a new law that sought to discriminate against those seeking Indian citizenship on the basis of their religion. In her profile of Bilkis for TIME, author and activist Rana Ayyub wrote, “Bilkis gave hope and strength to activists and student leaders who were being thrown behind bars for standing up for the unpopular truth in a democracy that was sliding into authoritarianism, and inspired peaceful copycat protests across the country.”

Though she was but one among the hundreds of women, many of them senior citizens like her, who participated in the Shaheen Bagh protests, Bilkis became the face of movement. When Ayyub visited the protest site, Bilkis told her, “I will sit here till blood stops flowing in my veins so the children of this country and the world breathe the air of justice and equality.” As someone who was born before India even achieved independence from British rule, Bilkis has a unique perspective on how things have been changing in the country, and took up the duty of safeguarding the same rights she enjoyed for future generations.

Bilkis’s courage has been hailed by everyone. The Shaheen Bagh protest unfolded in the middle of the bitterest winter Delhi had witnessed in over a century.

Bilkis had then spoken up about how she and her fellow protestors were vilified by the TV media as the “Tukde Tukde” gang.

While PM Modi’s profile on the list of Most Influential People is far from flattering, Bilkis’ own profile is a reminder that India will always have voices celebrating her diversity.