Bilkis, 82-year-old face of Shaheen Bagh protests, included in TIME magazine’s global list of 100 most influential people; PM Modi too finds place, but for wrong reasons

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TIME magazine has included Bilkis, who became the symbol of this year’s Shaheen Bagh protests against the anti-Muslim Citizenship Law enacted by India’s Narendra Modi government, in its list of 100 most influential people from around the world in 2020. Also finding the place in the list is PM Modi, but his inclusion has taken place for causing immense damage to India’s pluralism and bringing shame to the world’s most vibrant democracy.

Paying tribute to Bilkis, TIME wrote, “Bilkis gave hope and strength to activists and student leaders who were being thrown behind bars for standing up for the unpopular truth in a democracy that was sliding into authoritarianism, and inspired peaceful copycat protests across the country.”

The 82-year-old woman from Delhi was quoted as saying, “I will sit here till blood stops flowing in my veins so the children of this country and the world breathe the air of justice and equality.”

TIME wrote, “Bilkis deserves recognition so the world acknowledges the power of resistance against tyranny.”

Writing about Modi, journalist Karl Vick said, “The key to democracy is not, in fact, free elections. Those only tell who got the most votes. More important is the rights of those who did not vote for the winner. India has been the world’s largest democracy for more than seven decades. Its population of 1.3 billion includes Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and other religious sects. All have abided in India, which the Dalai Lama (who has spent most of his life in refuge there) has lauded as “an example of harmony and stability”.”

Vick, however, went on to add that ‘Narendra Modi has brought all that into doubt.’ “Though almost all of India’s Prime Ministers have come from the nearly 80% of the population that is Hindu, only Modi has governed as if no one else matters. First elected on a populist promise of empowerment, his Hindu-­nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party rejected not only elitism but also pluralism, specifically targeting India’s Muslims. The crucible of the pandemic became a pretense for stifling dissent. And the world’s most vibrant democracy fell deeper into shadow,” he concluded.

Bollywood actor Ayushmann Khurrana too found his name in the coveted list. TIME wrote about him, “In India, with a population of more than 1.3 billion, only a tiny percentage of people see their dreams come alive, and Ayushmann Khurrana is one of them. You’re probably wondering, How? Talent and hard work. Sure, that goes without saying. But more important, patience, perseverance and fearlessness. A little insight for those who dare to dream.”

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