Dalit and Muslim help Anna end fast
By Rizwan Khatik - Mon Aug 29, 7:30 am
NEW DELHI: For 12 days Anna Hazare became the rallying point for millions of Indians. And on the 13th day when he broke his fast, it was a moment of victory. History was made with its epitome of inclusiveness. Two children – a Dalit and a Muslim – together held a glass of coconut water and honey to Anna’s lips.
The move is significant as the 74-year-old Gandhian had drawn criticism from Dalits, with some even dubbing his movement as an upper-caste endeavour. Similarly, Muslim leaders had also advised community members to stay away from the movement.
But when eight-year-old Ikrah and five-year-old Simran helped Anna break his fast, religious and caste lines were blurred. The moment will remain immortalized in public memory with the young girls sat patiently besides Anna since morning and conversing with him. “Get well soon,” said a concerned Ikrah to Anna, promising to pray for his health.
The eight-year-old is the youngest of nine children living near the LNJP colony. Her poor father, Shahbuddin Mewati, who has lost vision in one eye, had courted arrest twice at Chhatrasal Stadium during this movement. “We kept roza every day and also joined the protests. Twice we opened roza at Parliament Street and Tughlaq Road police stations and once at the Chhatrasaal. We are committed to the fight against corruption because we face it every day. It is a people’s fight and everyone, including Muslims, must come forward. We are his sipahis,” said Ikrah’s uncle Mohd. Ahmed Saifi.
Coming from a modest background, this is the first time Ikrah joined a public forum. “I want to be like Kiran Bedi,” she told Anna. “She helps people and so will I,” she reportedly said. Later, she told the media that Anna had asked her to study well and work for the country.
The other, Simran, hails from a Dalit family. Living in a jhuggi cluster at Sunder Nagri, the five-year-old studies in Class I at a private school. Dalits from the area have been visiting the Maidan every day in small groups.
“For the past five days, I would go with different groups of women from our village to join the protest. I feel proud that my daughter has helped him end his fast. We got a call last night to bring her to the ground. The government doesn’t do anything and officials keep demanding bribe from us because we are vulnerable. The NGOs helped us a lot over the past 5-6 years,” said Rekha, Simran’s mother.