Watch: Why Braving Severe Cold Conditions, Thousands of Women Have Been Protesting at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh for Days

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Thousands of women including housewives have been protesting against the CAA and NRC at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh. Caravan Daily/Abdul Bari Masoud

Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI – South East Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh has emerged as one of the main hubs of protests against the controversial citizenship law in the national capital, and the most striking part of the protest is the participation of women there in large numbers.

Braving severe cold conditions, thousands of people, mostly women and children, have been gathering in evenings to vent their anger against the CAA and the NRC at a makeshift tent. A group of protesters has also been on a sit-in there since December 15. The protests at Jamia Millia Islamia University have acted as the trigger and stimulus to them.

The locality is not far away from Jamia Millia Islamia, and is located in the Muslim-dominated Okhla area of South East Delhi. Protesters gather after 6pm and remain there late into the night.

The women protesters told ‘Caravan Daily’ that they have grave concerns over the CAA and the NRC as they felt these were meant to undermine the citizenship status of Muslims.

Khateeja, who came from far away Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti to join the protest, said, “We as Indian Muslims need not and will not prove our citizenship in our own country.” She added: “The law is excluding us and that violates our Constitutional rights. We will protest against it till the government nullifies the new law.”

Echoing the same sentiments, young Saima Sadaf said, ‘’How do they expect of us to prove our loyalty to our own country?” She asserted: “Indian Muslims are not accidental Muslims, they are here by choice.”

A middle-aged lady, Khairunisa Begum, said many Muslims are really concerned over the future of their children in India, post NRC and CAA. “You see, despite the biting cold and chilly weather, women are coming in hordes here. This shows Muslim women are also very much concerned over the citizenship issue.”

Housewife Zeenat Akhtar said the government must realise why people are in the streets across the country. “Our Constitution does not divide people on religious ground, but the present rulers want to do so. The Constitution is under threat and we want to protect it,” she said.

This is a peaceful protest and we will continue until the government rolls back the CAA,” she added.

These women are keen the protests do not take a communal colour. Throughout the gathering, the sentiment was similar: “Ye Hindu Muslim ki ladai nahi hai, ye sahi aur ghalat ki ladai hai (This is not a fight between two religions; it is a fight about right and wrong).” In fact, most protesters, especially women, dissuaded one and all from giving the issue a communal tone.

Thousands of young women and housewives have been protesting for days at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh neighbourhood close to Jamia Millia Islamia. Image: Caravan Daily/Abdul Bari Masoud

After visiting the Shaheen Bagh, former Planning Commission member and noted activist Syeda Saiyidain Hameed wrote a piece on the protest and profusely praised the courage of women protesters. She stated: ”In all my 35 years of working with Muslim women, I had never witnessed a scene such as this. What I am witnessing was the new generation of Muslim women who speak boldly without an iota of fear.”

The bright faces and clear voices exuded confidence. Stated a protester: “We were born here, and here is where we will die. We are not afraid of Modi or Shah. Who are they to violate the most sacred testament of our nation?” Asked another woman: “Those who speak of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ allow their police to barge into the university and hit our girls. How can such barbarity be allowed?”

For most, this here was the first protest of their life. They had come out of their homes in droves, boldly, decisively, and without any misgivings. “What made you leave behind your grahasti, your kitchen, your children?” The answer one gave went thus: “My daughter asked me to come out, saying, ‘Mother, today they barged into the library and beat up the students. Tomorrow what if they break into my school and beat us up there?’”

Besides raising slogans, protesters are also displaying posters and placards of Mahatma Gandhi, the Dandi March, and Babasaheb Ambedkar alongside slogans rejecting NRC and CAA. Because of the protests, a majority of the shops remained shut and the stretch connecting Noida to Delhi through Kalindi Kunj was closed.

The protest was held in a highly disciplined manner. To avoid public inconvenience, the organisers left one side of the road open for free flow of traffic.

JAMA MASJID PROTESTS

Besides Shaheen Bagh, historic Jama Masjid in Old Delhi also emerged as a new spot for protests. People are gathering there at 8pm, holding placards and banners in protest against the new law of citizenship. Amid heavy security in the national capital, the protests against CAA are being held from Jantar Mantar to Shaheen Bagh, the Connaught Place, and Chitranjan Park, Seelampur, Jafrabad, Nizamuddin and other places.

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