Shaheen Bagh has become a symbol of resistance, a pan-India template which has been replicated in other parts of the country. It has emerged as a platform of freedom of expression for dissenting voices to air their grievances and express solidarity.
The locality came into prominence due to the presence of a large number of women protesters of various age groups. In fact, the movement is led by Muslim women, who are being supported by women from other communities as well.
The protest at Shaheen Bagh began with the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in December last year, and the ensuing police intervention against students at Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University on December 15. Growing in size by the day, it has now become the longest ongoing protest against CAA-NRC-NPR, triggering similar movements in different parts of the country,
Initially some courageous women have come out in droves to challenge the might of the government and protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). Camping under open skies and braving the capital’s coldest winter in a century, these protestors, mostly women from neighbouring areas, have turned what was a student’s movement into national movement.
The movement started with few Muslim men and women, the protest is no longer limited to Muslims. Every day, hundreds of people of different religions come and join protesters in what they call a movement to “save the country and its constitution. The women wave anti-CAA placards but the one that is the most powerful is a copy of the Constitution and the frequent readings of the preamble by volunteers. This is a unique moment and a unique movement. The women seated, many holding hands, are inside a protective circle of young men.
The new citizenship law violates the Fundamental Rights of Equality, Life and Liberty, as mentioned in the Constitution. The law will grant Indian citizenship to “persecuted minorities: Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parisians and Christians, from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but it blocks the naturalization of Muslims.
The protesters believe in that making religion a condition to grant anyone citizenship. Also, we strongly condemn the violence that has been unleashed on students.
The people at the “peaceful protest” against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) held posters, placards and the tricolour in their hands. The slogans like ‘azaadi’ and ‘reject CAA-NPR-NRC’ are visible on one side; on the other there are posters displaying the Sanskrit phrase ‘vasudhaiva kutumbakam’ (The world is one family).
Except National Flag, no other flag of any hue or any political party is visible. “We the people of India” has become an anthem for protesters, who read aloud the Preamble to the Constitution every day.
It is interesting to note that there were no politicians and that this was a spontaneous movement without any leader. It was also entirely and spontaneously peaceful. One month long protest will continue to fight against new citizenship law that discriminates against Muslims.
Now, Shaheen Bagh became a symbolic home of the movement, with a prominent role in the country’s history of change and tumult. The protest won’t end unless the government gives us in writing that no harm would be done to us after the CAA-NPR-NRC process. The basic agenda of this movement led by the women is clearly to pressurise the government to rollback the black law of citizen ship.
-By Dr. Meraj Ahmad Meraj
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)