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Yesterday, as the country was gripped by agitation and protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), one photo gave us hope. It is the photo of a young woman giving a flower to a policeman in Delhi.
From Bollywood personalities like Mahesh Bhatt to the ordinary twitterati, everyone retweeted that picture, shot by Photographer Saurabh Trivedi.
Some saw her as a symbol of hope and some even
called her the flower child. I had the pleasure of having a tete-a-tete with
the young woman herself, whose image has made such an impression on people.
Meet 21-year-old Shreya Priyam Roy. She is
a student doing her Masters in history from Delhi University. Her placard read,
“Dad thinks I am in my history class. He doesn’t know I am actually busy making
it.” Besides her studies, Shreya is a standup comedian and a mural artist. She
also dabbles in production design.
During my conversation with her, Shreya
says that she does not consider herself an activist but an ordinary, college-going
girl. Yet, she also recounts that she has been to protests before and does keep
raising her voice. She protested when she was in the third year of her graduation,
when her college tried hiking the fees. Shreya says that there are so many who
are unable to pay their dues and their only way to a good education is an
affordable fee structure.
Shreya recounts that over the past one year, she has seen how her friends in JNU and other Universities have protested against government policies. When she saw how the students of Jamia and Aligarh Muslim University were being harassed, her outburst reached a tipping point. When the CAA was passed in the parliament and the NRC was being talked about everywhere, she with her friends decided to join the protests in Delhi.
Shreya recalls the events of 19th December when the protests were called in Delhi. She wanted to go and join them at Lal Qila or Mandi House. However, the Government declared section 144. She waited at Bengali Market to meet her friends to join the protest at Jantar Mantar.
She says, “Though I have been to protests
before, and this time I saw people going in twos to protest, but something felt
so fearful that day. There were policemen around everywhere.” Once she headed
to Jantar Mantar she got some flowers to present to the police officials. She
adds, “The flowers were meant to humanize the whole protests including the
policemen. My friend who was with me is Muslim. And his father is in the police
force. That also made me somewhere understand that they were just following
orders. Throughout the whole protests, the media has been trying to project the
students as some miscreants who while away their time creating ruckus or
engaging in anti-national activities. Through this simple act I just wanted to
tell that we are just students trying to voice our opinions.”
And while she went to give the rose to a
policeman, she saw that someone photographed her. She recounts, “I felt awkward
being photographed and ran away post that. I was still in the protest when I
started getting tags on Facebook and phone calls from friends. I wasn’t
expecting it. And then the shares and tweets kept continuing.”
She says that though it went rapidly viral,
she would like to be remembered as an artist and not so much for the picture. Shreya
calls herself a feminist and says that her stand up comedy talks about her
everyday life and the perspectives of people around her.
As our interview comes to an end, Shreya
wishes that her image opens up the conversation around the protests more, and
helps to vindicate the students.
Though Shreya will move on to other things in life, this image of a young woman standing with a rose in front of a policeman will remind us to love, in times of hate for many more years to come.
Image credits Saurabh Trivedi
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Proud Indian. Senior Writer at Women's Web. Columnist. Book Reviewer. Street Theatre - Aatish. Dreamer.
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