At Shaheen Bagh, other anti-CAA protest venues, fears of a north-east Delhi rerun
As a battered north-east Delhi picked up the pieces, far away in south-east Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, women and their children continued their protest —which entered its 77th day on Saturday—against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) amid fears and concerns.
The fear of a north-east Delhi rerun loomed large in the area. The protesters alleged rioters were allowed to run amok to divert attention from the anti-CAA protests.
While several anti-CAA protests in north-east Delhi have been either called off or forcefully removed, a group of women continue their sit-in at New Seelampur, which saw large-scale violence earlier this week.
Discussions at Shaheen Bagh revolved around the riots and the extent of damage. People can be heard discussing the losses suffered by their family and friends living in the affected areas. They said messages portending the possibility of similar situation are doing the rounds.
“But we are not scared. Let them do whatever they want. We are fighting for our rights. We will come here every single day till our demands are met,” said Rukhsana Parveen, a resident of Shaheen Bagh.
As people in north-east Delhi begin to pick up pieces and rebuild their lives, protesters at Shaheen Bagh said the communal riots have taken the attention off the anti-CAA protests. “The main issue was CAA. But the communal riots diverted attention from the issue. They have done it deliberately,” said Najma, a homemaker, who has been coming here from Jamia Nagar.
“It is not just Muslims who have suffered; there are several Hindu families who have lost everything in the riots. Those who lost their lives in the violence are martyrs,” said Farhana, a resident of Shaheen Bagh.
On Saturday, in the New Seelampur anti-CAA sit-in, more than a hundred women were inside the tent set up within a kilometre from where the violence began on Sunday evening.
Protesters said their movement had been strengthened by the incident.
Shahida Sultana, 67, who was among the anti-CAA protesters who had blocked the Jafrabad Road which runs beneath the Jafrabad Metro station, last Saturday, said, “We have got so much strength from this incident in which so many people were killed by these hate mongers. When people die for the cause, why can’t we sit on a protest?”
Zaida Begum, 45, another protester said, “We had been peacefully protesting here since December. BJP leader Kapil Mishra provoked people against the anti-CAA protesters. He should be blamed and punished for this violence and the protesters should be allowed to resume their agitation.”
Rioters destroyed protest sites in Brijpuri, Kardampuri, Bhajanpura, Noor-e-ilahi and Chand Bagh. In some areas, protesters called off their agitation in the wake of violence and imposition of Section 144. For instance, in Khureji, the protest was dispersed on Wednesday. Zubair Ahmed, one of the protesters, said, “We had decided to call off the protest after the police attacked some of the agitators. We did not want to risk anyone’s life,” he said.
They asked why no action was taken against Kapil Mishra for his inflammatory speech, while the police took action against Aam Aadmi Party councillor Tahir Hussain instantly. “Why is there no action against Kapil Mishra and other BJP leaders who have made inflammatory speeches? This just shows that the police and the government are biased,” said Mohammad Adil, a local shop owner in Shaheen Bagh.
In the inner colony lanes at Shaheen Bagh, locals said rumours on social media had resulted in an atmosphere of fear. Local traders said business in the area has dropped since the riots.
“The protest has been going on for over 70 days. But in the last four or five days, sales dropped. People here are scared and the atmosphere is tense,” said Adnan Khan, who runs a bakery store.
A few kilometres away, residents of Nizamuddin Basti continue to maintain the momentum of their Shaheen Bagh-inspired protest that has been on since January 26. Though attendance was thin, locals kept chanting slogans against the CAA. “We will not give up. When they [Shaheen Bagh] can sit, why can’t we,” said Shabnam Naz, a resident of the Basti.