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17-year-old boxer muslim girl punching stereotypes with Yoga

By Anubhuti Gaur
|

Haldwani, Oct 08: A group of burkha clad women performing yoga in a public park is not something you behold every day, but 17-year-old Rehnuma Mikranai has made it a common sight for people in Nainital's Haldwani.

Muslim girl punching stereotypes with Yoga

A class 12th boxer, Rehnuma was confined at her home in the Haldwani town of Nainital district during the Coronavirus lockdown, but as soon as things began opening up, the teenager was unstoppable. Rehnuma, who has been training at Sports Authority of India's day-boarding extension centre for boxing in Uttarakhand's Pithoragarh district, bounced back with her daily fitness routine at the park everyday.

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Living in a conservative muslim society, she was well aware that many around her always frowned on her for not wearing a head veil, but she never surrendered. At the park, she was met with lewd comments and inappropriate stares. That made her uncomfortable, so Rehnuma's mother Shabnam, who is an anganwadi worker accompanied her to the park.

When Rehnuma observed that Burkha clad women come to the park for a walk everyday, she decided to bring them together and do something productive. She planned to hold a Yoga class for all the women in her neighbourhood and she would train them. It was a challenging task to convince those women to step out of their house and perform yoga in the park with everyone, but Rehnuma was determined.

Muslim girl punching stereotypes with Yoga

She and her mother created a whatsapp group. Initially many women were reluctant and declined the offer but then gradually they gained the confidence to step out and do something for themselves.

Rehnuma said, ''I wanted to show the muslim women of my neighbourhood that they should feel free to take out time for themselves and do something. I have always been supported by my family but not every muslim woman in our society is lucky enough to take an independent stand. I wanted these women to work towards their fitness and not be just confined to the four walls of their household.''

''Initially only a few women joined but once the word spread, more and more women joined, taking the overall strength to around 40. We usually start around 5:30 am and sometimes it continues till 7-7:30 everyday. Most women perform Yoga in burqa,'' said Rehnuma.

Rehnuma has never worn a burqa like the other women in her family and neighbourhood.

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'I have always believed that it's a personal choice and no woman should be pressured into wearing a burqa or a hijab against her wishes. Some maulvis, without directly pointing out, made it apparent to them of their displeasure over performing Yoga in the park,''said Rehnuma.

Muslim girl punching stereotypes with Yoga

''Men would stare at us for long. Two men at the park even tried to moral police and body shame us. They walked up to us and made us feel uncomfortable about performing yoga at the park. They said women shouldn't be allowed to come out without a burqa and they must stay at home. That infuriated me and I gave a piece of my mind. They left and never came back. It's extremely important for women to stand up against injustice. Men should have a veil in their eyes than on our bodies to protect our honour,''Rehnuma added.

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    Rehnuma's mother Shabnam is her pillar of strength. Shabnam has always supported her daughter's dreams and aspirations. Shabnam said, ''I want my daughter to win a gold medal in boxing and make the entire country proud. She is capable of achieving a lot in life and nothing should come in her way.''

    ''My daughter is an inspiration to all the other Muslim women in the society that are afraid to break barriers. I believe that women are the backbone of the society and they must be given the freedom to grow and scale all heights,'' she added.

    Rehnuma's father, Mohammad Kadeer is an auto driver. He has always supported all of his daughter's endeavours. ''I am really proud of my daughter. People used to make fun of me initially because I supported my daughter's boxing aspirations, but I never paid heed to anything. I hope one day she brings laurels to the country,'' he said.

    Rehnuma believes that women must be given absolute freedom to achieve their goals in life. She wants to win international and national medals in boxing. Her dream is to become an IPS officer and set an example for young women to live their dreams. Rehnuma has won praise from many social activists and social workers in Haldwani.

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