Dear Minister Maneka Gandhi,
Some of us are as old as you. We remember when you first burst upon the Indian political scene. You were quite an inspiration. You had a powerful mother-in-law and you matched her step for step.
Surely you remember the integrity that this country stood for.
Surely you remember the integrity for which she died.
This country guarantees to all of us, the right to practice our faith.
Our preamble was written by the great Ambedkar and the words are enshrined in our hearts.
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN, SOCIALIST, SECULAR, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation...
And the great Ambedkar went on to say, "Without equality, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many," asserting the democratic nature of our nation.
Today, ten thousand women, rich and poor, urban and not, have gathered here to ask you, before you accused us, before you were both judge and jury, before you decided to go to the press and announce that you would denounce us, did you stop to consider whether what you were being told by a dozen individuals was true? Where is our right to equality? To have our vote weighed in with theirs? Where is our right to liberty? To be able to practice our faith? Where is our right to fraternity? To live harmoniously without persecution and objectification?
Or are we living in a country in which the ministry for women and children does not need to hear the voice of the majority for the hidden agendas and personal motivations of a few?
Be scientific. Come and ask us, what is khafz? Hear about the experiences of the thousands of us. Check our procedures. Assess if there’s any harm.
Be objective. Try to find out whether the complaints you hear have any basis. Have the women been independently examined before they were allowed to demand legislation against an Indian community?
Be wise. Is this how this nation was founded and the principles on which it runs?
Be old and new. India was multicultural before the rest of the world knew what it meant. India is the original seat of harmonious co-existence. India guarantees for each citizen a freedom from racism and persecution that was built into its bones by this very constitution.
Today Dawoodi Bohra women with their traditional clothes have been splashed across every paper by women who have disowned our garb and our identity and bear none of the ensuing stigma of what they have done. Where should we go if our own Ministry for Women is complicit in this attack?
We urge you to reconsider your position. We urge you to consider what you see before you. We urge you to count our numbers. We stand before you, citizens of India, and demand that you give us the justice, the equality, the freedom and the fraternity that we are promised by being, the people.
Dr. Alefiya Bapai, Rashida Diwan, Batul Ratlamwala, Nafisa Kagalwala, Dr. Fatema Jetpurwala: Founding Members of the DBWRF for the 10,000 and more that we speak for.