Shaheen Bagh protests

The Shaheen Bagh protest is an ongoing 24/7 sit-in peaceful protest, led by women, that began with the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in both houses of Parliament on 11 December 2019 and the ensuing police intervention against students at Jamia Millia Islamia who were opposing the Amendment.[1][2][3] Mainly Muslim women, the protesters at Shaheen Bagh, since 15 December 2019,[4] have blocked a major highway[a] in New Delhi using non-violent resistance for 37 days now as of 20 January 2020.[5] It has now become the longest ongoing continuous protest against CAA-NRC-NPR.[6]

Shaheen Bagh protests
Shaheen Bagh anti-CAA protests
Part of Citizenship Amendment Act protests
Shaheen Bagh women protesters 15 Jan 2020.jpg
Shaheen Bagh women protesters blocking a major road (Road 13A GD Birla Marg, Shaheen Bagh - Kalindi Kunj area) in New Delhi
Date15 December 2019 - ongoing (35 days)
Location
Shaheen Bagh
Caused byPassage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 and the following police intervention in Jamia Milia Islamia
GoalsShow anger against passage of CAA, police violence and the government mentality. Stop the NRC-NPR from being carried out.
MethodsProtest, Sit-in, Demonstrations, Civil disobedience, Art (Graffiti, Poetry)
StatusOngoing
Lead figures
Non-centralized leadership
Casualties
Death(s)0
Injuries0
Arrested0
Detained0

The leaderless protest now is not only against CAA and police brutality, but also against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR), and the BJP government in general.[5] The protesters have also supported unions opposing the government's "anti-labour policies" and have protested against recent happenings such as the 2020 JNU attack.[7] The barricaded and tented venue has drawn large crowds; The Wire notes that lakhs of protesters have turned up over the days.[8] The Shaheen Bagh protest has inspired similar Shaheen Bagh-style protests across the country, such as in Park Circus, Bihar, Prayagraj and Mumbai.

Three petitions have been filed to stop the blockade. The Delhi High Court refused to hear the first two pleas and on 14 January 2020 said this is a police matter. The Delhi Police have said they will use "persuasion" and won't use force to end the blockade. Notably, the protesters are also protesting against police brutality and government apathy. However the leaderless nature of the protests are making it harder for the police to take action and the protesters have refused to move. Following this, on 17 January 2020 the Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal empowered the Delhi Police to detain anyone under the National Security Act starting from 19 January 2020 for the next three months. (The Ministry of Home Affairs clarified that this is a routine order under the situation). A third petition was filed on 18 January 2020, highlighting the difficulty students are facing, as well as the coming board examinations; the High Court accordingly directed the police to look into it.

The blocked road affects more than 100,000 vehicles a day with some 25 - 30 minute journeys taking 2 - 3 hours. As the area is also a border point into the capital, thousands of trucks are being diverted to other border points. The Delhi BJP chief has also requested the protesters to stop as a result of the inconvenience being caused to lakhs of commuters.

About

 
No NPR CAA NRC graffiti at Shaheen Bagh

The Shaheen Bagh protest began with just 10 to 15 local women on the afternoon of 14 December 2019. Later more locals joined in and it has since became a 24/7 sit-in protest.[9] Many of the women are hijab and burqa wearing Muslim women homemakers.[10] With crowds reaching as high as 100,000 on Sundays, this protest has become one of the longest[citation needed] sit-in protests of this magnitude of modern India.[9][8] CNN reports that Bahro Nisa is one such protester who even quit her job so she could continue the protest full-time and quoted her words: "They tried to stifle the voices of our children[b]... So, as mothers, we decided to stand up."[11]

Pradip Kumar Datta writes in Business Standard that a girl came on to the stage and explained how she was in a dilemma between supporting the act and understanding its dangers.[12] This makes the protest very unique in the history of India; where the stage also allows those to express their doubts.[12]

Even on 31 December 2019, New Year's Eve, protesters were camping at the venue and at midnight thousands of them sung the Indian national anthem;[13][14] braving the coldest day in New Delhi in a 100 years.[1][2][15] On 12 January 2020 one of the largest crowds since the protests began was seen at Shaheen Bagh.[16] The Shaheen Bagh protest have inspired similar Shaheen Bagh-style protests in Prayagraj, Gaya, Nagpur[17], Kolkata[18] (Park Circus)[19], Hyderabad[20], Lucknow[21] and Kota.[22]

Culture

The area is covered in artwork and posters.[23][5][24] A reading area has been set up and volunteers have crowd-sourced hundreds of books and stationery items.[25][4] (Notably, the police had entered the library of JMI. The "Read for Revolution" area is a protest against the police ransacking the Jamia library and beating up those inside).[12] Children accompanying their mothers have drawn issues such as the Australian wildfires (with a child writing 'Shaheen Bagh prays for Australia') and other things such as Deepika Padukone, Spider-Man and Disney Princesses.[4] Some of the children even go up to the microphone and say slogans such as "Hum kagaz nahin dikhayenge" (we won't show our papers).[4] One of the most common pictures drawn by the children is that of the national flag.[4]

A 40 feet high iron welded structure in the shape of India’s map with "We the people of India reject CAA-NPR-NRC" has also been erected by protesters as well as a mini replica of India Gate with names of those killed in the anti-CAA protests across India.[26] Sahil M Beg of The Indian Express writes that a heart shape made of paper boats with poetry of the poem Hum Dekhenge and various other artwork is made by anyone and everyone including students from Delhi University, Jamia Milia Islamia, Jadavpur University and Hyderabad Central University; and lines from poets such as Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Punjabi poet Pash, Habib Jalib and Ramdhari Singh Dinkar can be seen.[26]

Everyday there are speeches, lectures and shayari.[27] Poetry by Muhammad Iqbal is heard.[2] Inter-faith prayers have been held.[28][29] Scriptures from the Geeta, the Bible, the Quran have been read and Gurbani held.[28] On 19 January 2020 the protesters expressed solidarity with Kashmiri pandits.[30] A health camp has also been set up beside the camped protesters.[31] Many street peddlers have come to the site, balloon sellers, chaatwallas and many others giving the area a "lightness of festivity".[12] Sikh farmers have also come and set up a langer in the area.[21]

"By insinuating that we don’t know anything about CAA or NRC, Modi thinks he can diminish our protest. But we are aware, we have read the Act. We also know what the constitution says." - Ghazala, 22, Shaheen Bagh protester[13]
"We are Indians and we have all made this country what it is today. No one government should be able to tell us we are not Indians." - Nahida Begum, 40, Shaheen Bagh protester[13]
"I won't leave this country, and I don't want to die proving I am Indian," says 70-year-old Aasma Khatoon, who hasn't left the protest site for days. "It's not just me. My ancestors, my children and grandchildren - we are all Indian. But we don't want to prove this to anyone."[1]

The barricaded area has been visited by numerous politicians such as Congress leaders Mani Shankar Aiyar[32] and Shashi Tharoor[28] and celebrities as well such as Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub.[14]

Inspiration for other similar protests

The Shaheen Bagh protest has inspired several other similar protests in big cities in the country. On 7 January 2020, a group of women residents of Park Circus, Kolkata gathered at Park Circus Maidan to voice their dissent against the CAA. Soon Police arrived as they did not have any permission demonstrate their protest at the ground though later they were granted permission and a huge number of people joined them to participate in the protest. It became one of the most organised protests against CAA-NRC.[33][34] On request from the protesters the West Bengal state government provided them with tents, bio-toilets, running water and lights to continue the protest without any disruption.[35] Former Union Minister P. Chidambaram visited the protest and conducted a workshop there on CAA and NRC. Social activist Yogendra Yadav and singer Kabir Suman also visited to extend their support to the protesters.[36]

On 12 January, a group of women started a sit-in demonstration in the market area of Patna’s Sabzibagh against the Amendment. Gradually, people of all ages gathered to join them in the protest.[37] On the same day, inspired from the women of Shaheen Bagh groups of just 10 women began sit-in protests at the Mansoor Ali Park of Roshan Bagh, Allahabad.[38][39] Gradually, thousands of women, students and all age group of people braved rain and cold to join those 10 women to voice their resistance against the CAA and NRC through slogans, speeches and poems.[40][41]

Inspired from the Shaheen Bagh protest, a massive anti-CAA-NRC-NPR protest started in Mumbai on 17 January. Around 10,000 women gathered at the YMCA ground in Mumbai to protest in the evening. The protest was organised by a NGO named Mumbai Citizen Quorum. [42][43] Similar protests were also demonstrated at Kanpur's Chaman Ganj and Gaya’s Shanti Bagh.[44][45]

Efforts to remove blockade

Protests against the Shaheen Bagh blockade have also been held with many locals wanting the roads to reopen.[46] The Delhi High Court has refused a plea on the shifting protesters from Shaheen Bagh; the bench of the court was presided Chief Justice DN Patel.[47] Another petition has been filed by Advocate Amit Sahni "seeking directions to withdraw the closure of Shaheen Bagh stretch" and give Delhi Police the required assistance in addressing the issue.[48] The blocked road affects more than 100,000 vehicles a day.[48] This border point also receives 1800 trucks everyday which are now being diverted to other border points.[49]

On 14 January 2020 the Delhi High court passed the buck again to the police, saying it is a traffic matter concerning the police and to deal with it according to the larger public interest.[50][51] Following this the Delhi Police have said they will look into the restrictions that have been caused because of the protesters that affects lakhs of commuters every days including senior citizens, school children and office goers.[52][53] Delhi Police made a statement saying that "Won't use force to evict protesters from Shaheen Bagh" and will use "persuasion". (Notably, protesters are protesting against police brutality as well).[54][55] However the talks between the protesters and Police failed, with the women refusing to move.[56] The leaderless nature of the protests is making it difficult to take action.[12]

On 17 January 2020 the Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal gave the Delhi Police the powers to detain anyone under the National Security Act starting from 19 January 2020 for the next three months.[57] This is a routine order as per the Ministry of Home Affairs.[57] On 18 January another petition was filed by Advocate Amresh Mathur on behalf of the Sarita Vihar Resident welfare association (RWA) for opening the road, highlighting the fact that the board exams of school children are approaching in February and March. The High Court accordingly directed the police to look into the reasons for the closure.[58]

Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari made a video appeal to the protesters to stop, saying that "Lakhs of people in the city are facing inconvenience everyday [...] they are completing a 25-minute journey in two-three hours" and said that CAA is not against any religion.[59] Protesters have said that they will help ease traffic, but they won't budge until CAA is scrapped.[60] They have said that just as they make way ambulances, they will make way for school buses.[60] There have been various misleading claims by the media related to the incident.[61] The media have also fact-checked news related to this incident such as The Times of India debunking a claim that a video from another area was a police crackdown at Shaheen Bagh.[62]

Gallery

References

Notes

  1. ^ Road No 13-A, Shaheen Bagh (GD Birla Marg) - Mathura Road - Kalindi Kunj - Shaheen Bagh stretch is a border point that connects New Delhi to Noida and Faridabad.
  2. ^ Referring to the incident where police forcefully entered JMI university which resulted in reports of police brutality
  3. ^ The library and reading area is symbolic and a protest "against the violent ransacking of the Jamia library and beating up of its readers by the Delhi Police."[12]

Citations

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Further reading

Photographs