Jazeera along with her three children has been sitting in protest from June 14 in front of government offices, demanding protection of Kerala's sea coast
When Jazeera, 31, a resident of Madayi gram panchayat in Kerala’s northern district of Kannur, started a sit-in protest on June 14 in front of a police station near her village, everybody was stunned. First, she is a woman, and that too from a conventional Muslim family. Second, she was a mother of three—a toddler and two-school-going girls. To top it all, she is fighting against a strong nexus of sand miners, politicians, officials and the police. But nothing stopped her—the incessant heavy rains, cold winds that pierce the bones or the darkness of nights—from going ahead with her protest. She is fiercely dedicated to her mission—make the authorities protect the sea coast from sand mining.
“For eight nights and nine days I sat in protest along with my kids,” recalls Jazeera, who has now shifted her sit-in protest to the state secretariat gate in the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram. Her kids Rizwana, Rafzana and Muhammed are with her. “What I am pleading with the authorities is only to implement the existing legislation for protecting the sea coast,” she says while sitting in the rains under an umbrella, holding her son in her lap.
Watched coast near her home disappear
Jazeera was born and brought up in a tiny house on the seashore of Puthiyangadi area. Her father, the late Muhammed V, used to run a small shop on the coast. “Our sea coast was a beautiful and visited by many from outside,” recalls Jazeera. She developed an intimate relationship with the sea and the coast. Sea was her best friend. Jazeera was married off while she was studying in 10th class. The marriage broke up later. “I used to tell all my woes only to my sea, and when I was happy I used to roll on the sand,” she says.
On July 10, she started her second round of sit-in agitation in front of the district collectorate. The district administration wanted to give her police protection but she refused. “Why should I have protection? It is the coast that should be protected and I asked them to do that,” says she. Her daughters always stayed with her and attended school in the morning. Since it is Ramadan month and fasting is going on, sympathizers offered her food in the evening at the time of breaking fast. Rights activists and a few other organizations started helping her.
Meanwhile, people from the child helpline accused her of making her kids suffer. “They accused me of not being a good mother and asked me to sign paper saying that I would take care of my little boy properly. I’m a mother and I know my responsibilities. Nobody has to teach me that. So I refused to sign that paper,” says an agitated Jazeera.
On July 20, about 1,400 people took out a protest rally against Jazeera for “not allowing them to engage in their traditional livelihoods”. According to her, local people, politicians, officials and media took side with those engaged in sand mining while she got support from people and political parties and the media outside her locality.
'CM's verbal assurance not enough'
She is planning to continue her sit-in protest started on August 2, in front of the secretariat till she gets a written assurance from the chief minister. On Monday, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy called her to his chamber for a meeting and assured her that he would take necessary actions against sand mining on the coast. “Verbal assurance is not enough. I have given a submission in writing and have to get some assurance in writing,” she asserts.
Jazeera says that she is not afraid of anybody since she is a believer in god. Her husband, a madrassa teacher, gives her moral support and her mother prays for her. Her brothers, according to her, regret now that they did not support her when the whole locality opposed her protests. “What’s the point in living a long life fearing a few?” she asks. “ I prefer death to such a life.”
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