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WORK by ITA MEHROTRA

 

Ita Mehrotra is a graphic novelist, researcher and currently the Director of Artreach India, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes art, inclusive education and community development. 

 

One of Ita’s works, Shaheen Bagh: A Graphic Recollection (Yoda Press, 2021), recalls the protests from 2019, prominently led by Muslim women in an area of Delhi. They campaigned against the Citizen’s Amendment Act (2019) proposed by the government that narrowly defined the terms of Indian citizenship through the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR) with discriminatory implications for Muslims.  

 

The graphic novel is a visual ethnography of this protest. Voices, moments and memories from the vast anti-CAA uprising are crafted into a compelling narrative that highlights women’s crucial part in trying to challenge and change the national narrative.

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Panel from Shaheen Bagh : A Graphic Recollection (2021)

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Panel from Shaheen Bagh : A Graphic Recollection (2021)

 
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Panel from Shaheen Bagh : A Graphic Recollection (2021)

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Panel from Shaheen Bagh : A Graphic Recollection (2021)

 

The protest was as much against the CAA as it was about Muslims asserting their rights as residents and stakeholders to the multi-ethnic heritage-rich city of Delhi. Although the massive sit-in was forcibly disbanded during the early wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the struggle over the legacy of the CAA and who has the right to represent the city and indeed nation continues.  

 

Taking illustrations to another platform, graphic novels blur boundaries between the pictorial and the written, the factual and the fictional, and the utopian and dystopian, while being relatively easily communicated across social groups. They are a powerful medium for sharing alternative and imagined pasts, presents and futures in the forging of new heritage.