This article explores three moments in recent history where Indian women’s bodies—seen and unseen—highlight the centrality of the female body in the changing political discourse of India. The first moment, the Shaheen Bagh moment, is characterized by the body marked as “Muslim woman” and her occupation of public squares and streets (the protests in 2019-20 against the Citizenship Amendment Act). The second moment is the female body that engaged in unprecedented care work while being subjected to heightened levels of violence in the times of the pandemic, and the third moment is the resilient female body in struggle against neo-liberal farm laws. The Muslim woman’s body—culturally othered in numerous ways in South Asia and by the Indian state and its cultural representations—occupied center stage in a unique blend of volatility and performativity as women stepped outside their domestic spaces in order to stake their claim to a larger space at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi—that of home (“watan”) or country, even as they were threatened by the Citizenship Act and the NRC. Pushed back into their homes by the pandemic, they were put into enforced lockdown where their leader’s call was to “stay home, stay safe,” which was deeply euphemistic and ironic given the levels of domestic violence that raged during the forced captivity. The article also shows how the year 2021 witnessed women at the border outside the Indian capital of Delhi, during the farmers’ agitation, occupying spaces and organizing themselves into bodies of protest.
Malhotra, Meenakshi and Menon, Krishna
"Unbearable Weight: Women and the Shaping of Political Subjects through the Politics of Corporeality,"
Journal of International Women's Studies: Vol. 24:
6, Article 19.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol24/iss6/19