Neelam Azad, arrested during a protest outside Parliament on Wednesday (13 December), was also previously detained with Sakshi Malik's mother amidst the wrestlers' protest in New Delhi in May. Additionally, Azad was an active supporter of the farmer's movement in 2020-21.
Azad, a 37-year-old from Ghaso Khurd village in Haryana's Jind district, is a prominent figure in the farmer's agitation. According to Sikkim Nain, a farmer leader from Jind who spoke to The Indian Express, Azad was detained alongside the mother of wrestler Sakshi Malik, but they were both released after a few hours.
Nain himself was also brought to a police station in Delhi at the same time. Nain further noted that Azad was an active participant in the farmer protests, often sitting amongst the demonstrators.
Notably, andolanjeevi is a term coined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during farmers' protest. He used the term to indicate those for whom protesting is the main profession, irrespective of the issue.
Nain revealed that Azad draws inspiration from BR Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh. He further added that Azad actively distributes books about Bhagat Singh and the Constitution. Additionally, she plays a key role in operating a library in her hometown.
Ram Niwas, Azad's brother, revealed that she has earned MA, M Ed, and M Phil degrees and has also successfully passed the National Eligibility Test. He mentioned that she once interviewed for a position as a trained graduate teacher in Delhi, but unfortunately, she wasn't chosen. Niwas added that Azad is an active advocate against unemployment.
Over the last half a year, Azad has been studying for competitive tests while residing in a paying guest house in Delhi. Niwas mentioned, "She informed us on Tuesday that she was heading to Hisar. We were oblivious to the fact that she was traveling to Delhi."
Saraswati, Azad's mother, expressed that Azad was deeply distressed due to her joblessness. She explained that despite their family not being wealthy, they had prioritised Azad's education.
Saraswati recounted how Azad often lamented at home about her over-education and lack of employment, even going so far as to say she'd rather be dead.
Azad hails from the Kumhar community, with her father working as a halwai. Her two brothers make a living by selling milk in their village.
Azad Palwa, along with other local farming leaders, have shown their support for Azad and are demanding her immediate release. Palwa emphasised that the government needs to take this incident as a lesson and address the issue of unemployment. He pointed out that the country's youth are frustrated due to the lack of job opportunities, despite the government's pledge to create two crore jobs, which has yet to be fulfilled.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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