Post JNU Attacks, Fear Of Violent Clashes Grips Shaheen Bagh
Speculation is rife post-JNU violence on Monday that Shaheen Bagh may fall into the hands of miscreants waiting to sabotage the protest site that has been peacefully demanding rollback of the Citizenship Amendment Act, CAA and the proposed National Register of Citizens, NRC. There was a clarion call by civil society, celebrities and students to reach Shaheen Bagh in large numbers after masked goons went on a rampage and wrecked the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University and its hostels, leaving more than 20 students critically injured. Their names are Sarthak, Kamlesh Mandrijo, Soori Krishnan, Gaurav, Shambhavi, Velentina, Shivam Chaurasia, Manish Jangid, Sheshmanee Sahu, Aishe Ghosh, Ameet Parmeswaran, Sucharita Sen, Nikhil Mathew, Ayush Singh, Ashwarya Pratap, Shokat, Ujjwal, Deepshikha, Kamran and Sbimit. It is to be noted that Sucharita Sen is a faculty who teaches rural development, natural resources and rural livelihood at JNU. Aishe Ghosh is the JNUSU President.
The Shaheen Bagh Coordination Committee on last Friday ended the roadblock and requested the protesters to vacate the protest site. Sharjeel Imam, a JNU scholar, formerly trained in computer science at IIT Powai, wrote in a Facebook post that, “We have called off the Shaheen Bagh road blockade to avoid the impending violence from party goons and to avoid the politicization of the stage by the parties.”
Aasif Mujtaba, a research scholar at IIT Delhi and one of the conveners of SBCC, when asked how did he miss to anticipate early motives of the stage as a political weapon by parties as the Delhi assembly election is nearby, he says, “We couldn’t judge it earlier as we were committed to maneuver a peaceful protest while sensitizing the masses about the repercussions of CAA and proposed NRC. Now we have information that Delhi police are not going to end Shaheen Bagh protest peacefully. We have information that the Delhi police is not going to end this protest peacefully. We can’t let this happen. In the last 20 days, Shaheen Bagh has come out as a cradle and model of peaceful protest. Now there is an attempt to tarnish the image Shaheen Bagh by the political parties. It will kill the objective and efforts.”
But the protesters were unmoved despite several calls and requests. One of the volunteers at Shaheen Bagh said, “We are not going to call off the protest so soon, come what may. The Noida-Kalindi Kunj highway will be on standstill until the government doesn’t take back the CAA and proposed NRC.”
Sanaullah Akbar, a resident of Shaheen Bagh and a volunteer of SBCC in a letter sent to The India Saga says, “We realize that one blocked highway is not enough to force the government to listen to us, but hundred blocked highways may do the job. In this context, even after 20 days and international media coverage, Shaheen Bagh stands alone and the pressure of administration and neighboring localities has been increasing. As Delhi election approaches, parties have been trying to communalize the issue, and the people of Shaheen Bagh should not face the brunt of communal forces or the state machinery alone. If we are not able to retreat peacefully, it will destroy the spirit of our movement, and tarnish the non-violent mode of protest that we are trying to set as an example. Hence, considering the safety of this vulnerable community we have decided to withdraw from the roadblock for the time being, and asked people to do the same.”
The local protesters at Shaheen Bagh are unwilling to end the roadblock. One medical practitioner Imran says, “If someone wants to withdraw in his/her personal capacity then we welcome it but the protest is on. You can see women and children are still sitting on floors under the tent. They, SBCC, don’t have locus standi to call off the roadblock as the protest has always been led the resilient women of Shaheen Bagh.”
In an interview with The India Saga, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi had said that roadblock is not a form of non-violent and peaceful protest.
Post JNU violence
Post JNU incident, Aasif Mujtaba in a telephonic conversation, says, “The JNU incident is a reminder to all of us that something similar can be perpetrated by the rogue elements to foil the objective of the protest. Therefore, the protesters at Shaheen Bagh have to be more vigilant.”
The roadblock call off FB post by Sharjeel Imam faced criticism as people alleged SBCC to decide unilaterally. Some users alleged him to compromise with the ruling party and have fled Shaheen Bagh. Sharjeel refuted the allegations in a video shared on Facebook: We never wanted cash donations for the protest at Shaheen Bagh. To prevent cash collections we used to announce multiple times from the stage that don’t give a donation in cash. Cash received in our names were sent back that irked some groups. It might have ended up into arguments or skirmishes between groups. Had it been there no roadblock call off and withdrawal, we would have ended up giving police a chance to intervene, that’s what we never allow. Now after the JNU violence it is evident that Shaheen Bagh may become the next target of riots. We want to appeal the protesters stay away from rumors and be vigilant. I have not fled Shaheen Bagh. I am here only. Anyone can come and meet me.”
In the second half of the video, Aasif Mujtaba says. “I am thankful to them who saved the peaceful spirit of the protest. Shaheen Bagh is a synonym of sacrifice. I agree that despite all the support from locals, people are facing difficulties because of the roadblock. Small or big shopkeepers, professionals, and school children suffering. So we decided to end this roadblock. We never called off the protest but intended to change the form of the protest. Shaheen Bagh is not only a name, but it is also a ray of hope for millions. Those who believe all protesters instigate riots, Shaheen Bagh is the answer.”