Shaheen bagh protest shook our democratic nation. The long-run protest was against the Citizen Amendment Act, National Register of Citizens, National Population Register, but also other issues like police brutality, women’s safety, unemployment, and poverty.
Mainly consisting of Muslim women, the shaheen bagh protest was going on since 14th December 2019 and has blocked a road in Delhi using non-violent resistance amid police intervention against students of Jamia Millia Islamia who were opposing the amendment.
The protest ended on 24th March 2020 because of the Covid-19 outbreak in the nation. It was the longest protest held in India for successive 101 days against CAA-NRC-NPR, but one of the protestors said, “Shaheen Bagh has become a thought process. It isn’t a neighbourhood anymore. The protest will continue. We will first fight novel coronavirus and then come back to defeat hateful and divisive politics.” said Hena Ahmad.
Shaheen bagh protest has gained public outrage. More than 100,000 people joined it, from locals to older people and to children. The protesters were also supported by more than 100 volunteers, including students and professionals from Delhi. These volunteers organized themselves around different tasks; setting up makeshift stages, shelters, and bedding; providing food, water, medicine, and access to toilet facilities. The protest became the longest sit-in protest in the history of modern India.
The protests saw a new wave when the protesters uncovered murals, graffiti, posters and banners, and scale models. Such art was created to show resistance against CAA/NRC. It consisted of unique artworks like a mini replica of India gate with the names of people who died in the protests across India inscribed, painted with a message “Hum Bharat ke log CAA-NRC nahi mante“.
Another art was shown with the boats arranged in the shape of the heart facing the battle tank. The boats were inscribed with the words “Hum dekhenge“. The posters proclaim that the protesters are “bouquets” rather than a lotus, giving unity in diversity. The art was made by students of different universities in India. The protest was different from others as we can see different kinds of arts that show resistance of protestors and unity message to stick together in a hard time.
They also had a cultural event called “Artist Against Communalism“. Performers like Shubha Mudgal sang, “Hamari khwaishon ka naam inquilab hain“. Rapper Sumit Roy performed his rap “Poorna Swaraj“, and poet Amir Aziz recited “Main inkaar karta hoon“. The wide coverage protest gathered protestors to fight against the system and took it to a new level of non-violent struggle against the government policies, where they used different ways to keep the protest alive. Through their graffitis, posters, poems, murals and live cultural event, they showed their resistance.
On the night of 30th January, a four-month toddler died of a severe cold, which raised the question of children’s safety. Are children safe at the protest? This gained a lot of media attention; many leaders and organization showed their concern not to involve children.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had shown concern by writing a letter to the District Magistrate of South-East Delhi taking note of complaints of the leaders and people. NCPCR had asked the DM to direct the concerned authorities to identify these children and arrange for counselling. It has also asked for a report within ten days.
The letter reads, “It appears that these children might be brought under the influence of rumours/miscommunication and as a result of which, they may suffer from mental trauma.” Many parents showed concern over the matter, and one among them said, “Children have been present from the first day with parents who are in protest. Most of the students visit schools in the morning before coming to the protest site. The place has been turned into an art space for many children. They express their thoughts through poetry, storytelling, and painting. Student volunteers engaged the local children in reading, painting, singing and hold informal reading lessons. But yet amidst all the problems, the protest was not stopped and held with more temperament and enthusiasm.”
The Shaheen Bagh protests have inspired several other similar protests in the big cities of India. Though the system remains unchanged, it has created a mass movement. All citizens gathered irrespective of their background. They came together to fight against CAA and many other unresolved problems.
It inspired many others too, women of Park Circus, Kolkata gathered at Park Circus maidan to show dissent against CAA, but the situation changed the West Bengal government provided lights, tents, bio-toilets, running water, and extended their full sport.
Another protest held outside Konark mall, Kondhwa, Pune, was organized by Kul-jamaat-e-Tanzeem. A small no of participants started this, but soon 500-600 people gathered to resist against CAA/NRC. Candlelight vigils, human chains, and speeches were part of the protest. Like this across in India, many demonstrations have been happened and are still going on. But this colourful tent that once was a symbol of resistance had been dismantled as police cleared the area on 24th March 2020 amidst the spreading of Covid-19. One protestor said that it is a pause, not a defeat.