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Shaheen Bagh protests

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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 (42 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, Slogan, Art (Graffiti, Poster, Scale model, Poetry, Storytelling, Street performance, puppetry)
StatusOngoing
Lead figures
Non-centralized leadership
Casualties
Death(s)0
Injuries0
Arrested0
Detained0

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 42 days now as of 26 January 2020.[5] It has now become the longest ongoing continuous protest against CAA-NRC-NPR.[6]

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 as well as shown solidarity with Kashmiri Pandits.[7][8] The barricaded and tented venue has drawn large crowds; The Wire notes that lakhs of protesters have turned up over the days.[9] The Shaheen Bagh protest has inspired similar Shaheen Bagh-style protests across the country, such as in Park Circus, Bihar, Prayagraj, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

Four 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. 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 matter has also reached the Supreme Court.

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.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has asked authorities to provide counselling for children present at the protests.[10] A complaint was received saying that the children have been misinformed by their parents about the Amendment and detention centers. Many of these children have been seen in viral videos of the protests.[11]

About

Graffiti of NPR-CAA-NRC in spray paint
No NPR CAA NRC graffiti at Shaheen Bagh

On 12 December 2019 the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) passed by the Parliament of India, which amends the Citizenship Act of 1955 to grant a swifter path to Indian citizenship under the assumption of religious persecution to any individual belonging to the specific minorities of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before 31 December 2014.[12] However, the Act does not mention Muslims and does not offer the same eligibility benefits to Muslim immigrants or immigrants belonging to other religions. The Act also does not mention any benefits for Muslims and others from these countries, and refugees from other countries[13][14] including Sri Lankan Tamil refugees[15][16] Rohingya Muslim and Hindu refugees from Myanmar, and Buddhist refugees from Tibet.[17]

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.[18] Many of the women are hijab and burqa wearing Muslim women homemakers.[19] Elderly women aged 80s and 90s also joined the protest.[20][21] With crowds reaching as high as 100,000 on Sundays, this protest has become one of the longest sit-in protests of this magnitude of modern India.[18][9] CNN reported that a women named Bahro Nisa was one such protester who has quit her job to continue full-time protest. She her words: "They tried to stifle the voices of our children[b]...So, as mothers, we decided to stand up."[22] According to Business Standard, a girl came on to the stage and explained how she was in a dilemma between supporting the act and understanding its dangers.[23] This makes the protest very unique in the history of India; where the stage also allows those to express their doubts. The article calls the protest − "A new kind of satyagraha with a fresh grammar of protest."[23]

On 31 December 2019, the New Year's Eve, thousands of protesters who were camping at the venue, at midnight sung the Indian national anthem;[24][25] despite Delhi was experiencing reportedly the second coldest night in the last 100 years.[1][2][26] Since the protests began, one of the largest crowds was seen at Shaheen Bagh on 12 January 2020.[27]

Culture

The area is covered in artworks and posters.[28][5][29] A reading area has been set up and volunteers have crowd-sourced hundreds of books and stationery items.[30][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).[23] 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] There are posters saying that they are 'a bouquet, not the lotus' (the BJPs symbol).[31]

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.[32] The Indian Express reported that a heart shape made of paper boats with poetry of the poem Hum Dekhenge. The artwork has been made by anyone and everyone including students from Delhi University, Jamia Milia Islamia, Jadavpur University and Hyderabad Central University. Lines of poetry and nazm of revolutionary poets such as Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Pash, Habib Jalib and Ramdhari Singh Dinkar can be seen.[32] Scroll.in has called the area an "open air art gallery".[31]

Everyday there are speeches, lectures and shayari.[33] Poetry by Muhammad Iqbal is heard.[2] Inter-faith prayers have been held.[34][35] Scriptures from the Geeta, the Bible, the Quran have been read and Gurbani held.[34] A health camp has also been set up beside the camped protesters.[36] Many street peddlers have come to the site, balloon sellers, chaatwallas and many others giving the area a "lightness of festivity".[23] Sikh farmers have also come and set up a langer in the area.[37] On 17 January 2020, a library was set up so that people can read books to understand Constitution, revolution, racism, fascism, oppression and various social issues.[38]

"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[24]

"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[24]

"I won't leave this country, and I don't want to die proving I am Indian. 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."

— 70-year-old Aasma Khatoon, who hasn't left the protest site for days.[1]

The barricaded area has been visited by numerous politicians such as Congress leaders Mani Shankar Aiyar[39] and Shashi Tharoor, [34] social activist Chandrashekhar Azad[40] and celebrities such as Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub.[25]

Children at the protest

Children and Grafitti protest at Shaheen Bagh
Children sit-in protest around a graffiti holding candles at the site.

Since the first day, children have been present along with their parents who participate in the protest.[41] Everyday, the children visit school in the morning and after returning from school they join their parents at the site. The site has become an art space for many children. They express their thoughts and join in the protest through storytelling, poetry, puppetry, singing and painting graffiti.[42][43] Some of them express their voice through sit-in protests holding candles.

Children at Shaheen Bagh protests
Children at the Shaheen Bagh protests and a random person taking a selfie while others also take photographs

On 21 January 2020, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), the top children rights body of India, has asked authorities to provide counselling for children present at the protests.[10] A complaint was received saying that the children have been misinformed by their parents about the Amendment and detention centers.[11] Children at the site listen to speeches about how issues from CAA NRC to Ayodhya to triple talaq had been discriminatory in nature.[44] Some of these children have been seen in viral videos of the protests shouting slogans. NDTV reported that the District Magistrate of South East Delhi was informed of the " mental trauma" the children may have to undergo due to the misinformation being told to them.[11]

Efforts to remove blockade

Protests against the Shaheen Bagh blockade have also been held with many locals wanting the roads to reopen.[45] 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.[46] 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.[47] The blocked road affects more than 100,000 vehicles a day.[47] This border point also receives 1800 trucks everyday which are now being diverted to other border points.[48]

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.[49][50] 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.[51][52] 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).[53][54] However the talks between the protesters and Police failed, with the women refusing to move.[55] The leaderless nature of the protests is making it difficult to take action.[23]

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.[56] This is a routine order as per the Ministry of Home Affairs.[56] 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.[57] A plea has also been filed in the Supreme Court of India requesting supervision of the matter so as to prevent any violence.[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]

On 21 January 2020, the Lt. governor of Delhi, Anil Baijal met a group of eight ladies from the protest. They also submitted a memorandum of the demands of the protesters.[10]

Defamation attempts

Kashmiri Pandits' cause

"We feel the pain of Kashmiri Pandits who left everything back in Kashmir and ran. We the people of Shaheen Bagh stand in solidarity with them in their agony."

— A 40 years old women protester at Shaheen Bagh.[63]

On 19 January 2020, the protesters at Shaheen Bagh called for a meeting in solidarity with the Kashmiri Pandits, who were the victims of exodus in Kashmir.[63] This was observed after a controversial tweet by filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri went viral, claiming that the protesters of Shaheen Bagh will organise an event to celebrate "Kashmiri Hindu Genocide day" on 19 January 2020. On the very day, the official twitter handle of Shaheen Bagh debunked the false claim by the filmmaker. A statement was released where it clarified that "malicious elements" that were circulating on social media platforms were false and the said event was not to commemorate the exodus.[64] Through the statement the protesters also recognised the "injustice done" to the Kashmiri Pandits and invited them to come to the protest site. To show solidarity, the protesters observed a two-minute silence at Shaheen Bagh. They also invited two prominent Kashmiri Pandits, Inder Salim, a performance artist and MK Raina, a theatre personality to give a speech at the gathering.[8][65]

"We are not here to take Rs 500 rather we are here to protect our 500 years which our ancestors have dedicated for India."

— Asharfi, a 63 year old protester.[66]

As the protest entered January, the BJP IT cell made claims of protesters being paid to protest. A doctored poster mentioning, "fix rate RS 500" was made viral on social media platforms. This claim was debunked when an independent website, The Logical Indian released a fact check article on the same posters. The article unearthed the veracity of the real poster which says, "CAA wapas lo, NRC wapas lo" (Roll back CAA and NRC).[67] Posters at the site were also unfurled which has asked the participants in the protest to not receive any amount of money and asked people not to bribe anyone to participate.[68] On 15 January 2020. Amit Malviya, BJP leader and head of IT cell, tweeted a video where claims were made that the women protesters were "paid Rs 500 to 700" to sit-in. Soon Twitter users refuted the claims and also said they are visiting and joining the protest with their own expenses.[69] The official twitter handle of Shaheen Bagh protest released a statement and quashed the claim as false.[70]

Two women protesters named Nafisa Bano and Shahzad Fatma sent a defamation notice to Malviya which has demanded an apology and Rs 1 crore in damages from the BJP leader.[70] Advocate Mehmood Prachaa has sent the notice on behalf of the protesters. The notice mentions how the addressees, "...have not only played a fraud on the general public but have also attempted to bring disrepute to the protesters who are bringing the attention of a large number of people on the issues being pressed by this extraordinary exercise of Constitutional freedom."[71] The Quint reports that on the 21 January notices have also been sent to Republic TV, Zee News, Times Now, TV18 and News Nation over the same reasons.[72]

Inspiration for other similar protests

The Shaheen Bagh protest has inspired several other similar protests in big cities around 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. It became one of the most organised protests against CAA-NRC.[73][74] 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.[75] 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.[76]

On 11 January, an all women sit in protest was started outside Konark Mall in Kondhwa, in Pune, organized by Kul Jamaat-e-Tanzeem, an umbrella body of several organisations. The protests started with a few people participating but the crowd grew steadily and reached around 500-600 protesters as reported on 19 January. According to a protester the movement was to save the constitution and the country. Candle light vigils, human chains and speeches were part of the protest. The venue had banners with slogans such as 'Tumhari Lathi Se Tej Hamari Awaaz Hai' and 'Liar Liar Desh on Fire', as well as 'India Needs Education, Jobs, Not CAA, NRC, NPR'.[77]

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.[78] 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.[79][80] 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.[81][82]

Similar protests were also demonstrated at Kanpur's Chaman Ganj, Gaya’s Shanti Bagh,[83][84] Kota's Eidgah ground[85], Lucknow's Clock Tower[86] and Fraser Town in Bangalore.[87] Inspired by 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 collective named Mumbai Citizen Quorum. [88][89] On 20 January 2020 an indefinite sit in protest started at Parbhani named as "Parbhani bhi ek Shaheen Bagh" organised by Samvidhan Bachao Tahrik.[90][91]

Gallery

See also

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."[23]

Citations

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Further reading

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