Jazeera, who has been waging a silent battle against the powerful sand mafia in north Kerala for about a year and-a-half now, has decided to take her fight to the national capital of New Delhi.
The 31-year-old burqa-clad woman, who has been staging a sit-in along with her three minor children in front of the state secretariat here, told reporters that she had decided to shift the venue as the state authorities had failed to take any action to stop the illegal mining that’s eating into the coastline at her village of Madayi.
Jazeera had come to the state capital on August 2, 2013, after her protests in front of the police station at Pazhayangadi and later Kannur district collectorate from June 14, 2012 did not yield any result. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who promised to rein in the sand mafia, had failed to keep his word.
She said would now place her demand to strictly adhere to the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules before the federal government by staging a sit-in in front of the Parliament. Jazeera has left for Delhi on Friday along with her kids, Rizwana (12), Rafzana (10), who were studying in a school here, and Muhammed (2).
Jazeera embarked on her silent campaign after she saw the beach where she grew up vanishing on her return from her husband’s house at Kottayam to her parent’s home for her third delivery. She started off after persuading two of her brothers, engaged in sand mining, to give up the illegal activity. She launched the sit-in after her numerous representations to the local authorities and the district collector fell on deaf ears. She shifted the venue to Trivandrum after the mafia and the local police started harassing and physically assaulting her and her children.
The harassment continued even at the new venue. While the police intimidated her, some officials threatened to register a case against Jazeera with the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) for putting her baby’s health at risk by exposing him to the vagaries of weather and denying education to the others.
However, the support from environmentalists, civil society activists and several political parties encouraged her to continue the silent campaign. She said that her struggle was not for the Madayi beach alone.
“My fight is against the sand mafia that is destroying the coastline throughout the State. Sand mining has already killed several rivers. The extension of the mining activity to the coasts will bring the same fate to the beaches,” she added.
The Kannur district administration, local media and some legislators were also not kind to her. They termed her crusade motivated. While a section claimed that it was for publicity the others termed it as a ploy to make money.
Jazeera is no ordinary woman. The woman, who was married while studying at Class X, had fought the taboos of the conservative society to become an auto-rickshaw driver in 2006 following breakdown of her marital life. She discontinued the profession after she was married off to a madrasa teacher at Kottayam.
She refused police protection following threats to her life from the sand mafia, saying God will protect her. “I am not afraid of anybody. I am a firm believer in God. I have my mother praying for me always and husband supporting me morally. This will give me strength to continue my fight,” she added.