Biggest crowd at Shaheen Bagh since protest began 4 weeks ago
Roads and lanes leading to Shaheen Bagh were jam-packed on Sunday as thousands of people joined the ongoing protest against the amended citizenship law and National Register of Citizens (NRC), in what was one of the largest gatherings at the spot ever since the agitation began four weeks ago.
While hundreds have been gathering at Shaheen Bagh everyday, protesters attributed the increase in numbers on Sunday to the weekend and the pleasant weather. “Everyday, I come here for two or three hours. But since it was a Sunday today, I am here since morning and so is my friend and his family,” said Tufail Ashraf, a resident of Batla House and medical transcripter.
Unlike other days, both the carriageways of road 13A were full of protesters armed with posters and flags against CAA. Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who visited Jamia Millia Islamia and Shaheen Bagh on Sunday, tweeted that he was stuck in severe traffic on the 3-km stretch from the varsity and Shaheen Bagh.
“So thick were the crowds and so blocked the traffic that we had to walk the last fifteen minutes to reach the site (Jamia). But the audience’s enthusiasm made it all worthwhile,” he wrote on Twitter.
Despite a section of organisers pulling out on January 2, the protests at Shaheen Bagh have continued. From a replica of India Gate with names of those who died during anti-CAA protests, to a model detention centre to raise awareness, to graffiti and posters, the protesters have used unique methods to express their dissent.
An interfaith prayer meeting to counter “divisive forces trying to polarise the country” was also held at the protest site.
“We have to give a message to the government that we can no longer be divided on the basis of religion. That is why we went there and prayed for our country’s peace. As we engaged in kirtan and shabad gurbani, our Muslim, Hindu and Christian brothers read their religious scriptures,” said DS Bindra, a social activist who has been participating in the anti-CAA protests.
Apart from readings from the Bible and the Quran, the prayer meeting, which went on for about two hours, also saw Hindu priests performing “yagna”. Hundreds of protesters also participated in reading of the Preamble to the Constitution.
Hena Ahmed, a protester at the site, said, “When we say all Indians are our brothers and sisters, we mean it. Muslim women wore tilak and covered their heads during gurbani, Sikh women participated in mantras recited by Pandit ji. This shows how secular and united our country is.” The protesters are also planning to organise another interfaith meeting on January 19.
Participants said there have been attempts to describe the Shaheen Bagh protest as a ‘Muslim initiative’. “We are coming here everyday to save Constitution. This is not just about Muslims,” said Zahida Khanam, 50, whose children have studied in Jamia Millia Islamia.
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