No One Goes Hungry At Shaheen Bagh; Peaceful Anti-CAA Protest
While chilly wave has seized entire North India, a six-lane highway at the outskirt of North East Delhi, Shaheen Bagh, is simmering slowly on the flame of anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019) and proposed NRC (National Register of Citizens) protest. A makeshift since fortnight, when Jamia Milia Islamia’s library faced violent clashes between the protestors and Delhi police, is the temporary installation for thousands of women, men and children lodging their protest against the CAA and the NRC. Under a tarpaulin tent, all day and night, women sit on the floor over a thin layer of the mattress. Wearing shawl and scarf, they are beating the cold with their bold voices. The protest so far has been peaceful and the credit goes to the volunteers of Shaheen Bagh, Jamia Nagar, and the neighborhood.
Two young research scholars from IIT Delhi, Aasif Mujtaba, and Sharjeel are the architects behind the peaceful protest at Shaheen Bagh. Volunteers sometimes appear complaining Aasif about the unverified news of stone pelting on the police near the protest site. Calm and composed, Aasif tells them not to react and fall prey to such rumors.
There are posters of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi jotted with slogans like ‘No CAA, No NRC.’ While intense cold wave has gripped the national capital, women protestors get an education on the new contentious citizenship amendment law and NRC. The women volunteers are cheerful when they serve tea and snacks to the protestors who join it. The girls and the children are curious to know about the supporters who come from different parts of Delhi and India. They cheer up and applause the orators on the stage. No hate speech is allowed. Aasif makes sure nothing derogatory comes out. The fear of possible crackdown does not bother the protestors as the women protestors are not giving up anytime soon. Aasif Mujtaba believes that the women at Shaheen Bagh are the driving force.
Aasif tells, “From day one, our objective was multi-dimensional and holistic. We wanted to sensitize the masses about the wrongdoings of the legislation. This government is going to cross any limit of morality and constitutionalism. CAA is anti-constitutional and we are not going to give it up. The theme of our protest is, ‘we won’t be violent but we won’t be silent either’. We have long been silent on a number of issues. The government says it criminalizes Triple Talaq to give justice to the Muslim women but the same women are locked up in a virtual prison after the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.”
Aasif says that the students at Jamia were peacefully protesting when police entered the library, switched off the lights and launched an assault on the innocent students. A nominee for Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma Gold medal, Aasif has been actively participating and leading the agitation against NRC and CAA in Delhi and other parts. He says, “Gandhi gave a clarion call for ‘Do or Die’ in 1942 that turned was violent but our protest won’t be violent. The police might open lathi-charge and tear gases on us but they cannot break our spirit. For us, it’s like ‘now or never’.”
Citing the trigger point behind protest at Shaheen Bagh, he elaborates, “How this happened at Shaheen Bagh there is quite a story to tell. The day when Jamia’s students and our friends were beaten and harassed, most of us from Shaheen Bagh never saw smoke grenades or tear gases in our life yet we had the first-hand experience of police brutality. We were aghast. A peaceful march towards the parliament was turned violent when police brutally lathi-charged the students. It was like a war zone.”
Besides a well-operated and peacefully settled demonstration, the motto of, ‘no one goes hungry’ is also a major takeaway. Volunteers have raised funds from local residents and traders to feed the protestors all day and night. Giant aluminum dishes kept on a makeshift charcoal-burner simmers with meat and biryani with endless cups of teas, biscuits, and snacks.