At Shaheen Bagh anti-CAA stir, protesters brave biting cold 24x7
Three electric heaters, multiple layers of mattresses and blankets, braziers, and copious amounts of chai — this is how around 200 protesters braved the coldest night of the season at the GD Birla Marg in south Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh on Friday. Protesters have been camping on the road around-the-clock since December 15 to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), demanding a roll-back of the newly amended law. And as their protest clocks two weeks, nothing seems to deter the local residents. Not even the cold wave conditions that threaten to give Delhi its second coldest December in more than a century.
Set up using bamboo and tarpaulin sheets, the protest site had local residents huddled together with multiple blankets around them. As the minimum temperature dropped to 2.4 degrees Celsius in the early hours of Saturday, grilles on the divider along the road were lined with mattresses and blankets, to protect protesters in the enclosure from the biting cold.
“I was running a slight temperature last night and had to take some medicine. But we don’t care if we fall ill or die or if police comes to beat us. We will not move from here unless the CAA is rolled back. We are here to save our Constitution,” said Rizwana Bano, mother of three, a first-time protester who has been at Shaheen Bagh for two weeks now.
Like Bano, a large number of women from the locality head to the protest site every night where they participate in open-mics to express their thoughts and attend movie screenings at the spot. A majority of protesters echo a similar sentiment — the temperatures are nothing compared to the “threat” of the CAA and NRC [National Register of Citizens] that they said they now face.
Talking about the arrangements made, Danish Hassan, a resident of Shaheen Bagh, said, “We used more tarpaulin sheets to increase area of the tent and ensure more people sleep inside. Since the area is around the Yamuna, we arranged for more blankets when we read that temperatures would fall. People also got logs to light braziers throughout the night.”
Sharjeel Imam, a PhD scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, who has been at Shaheen Bagh from the first day, said, “Somebody was told about gloves today and we will get them by tonight. Everything is done at community level. Volunteers also distribute food and tea through the night.”
On Saturday, a health camp was also set up for protesters. “Many families were concerned about the protesters, since it is not easy to sit outside in the cold for hours. Some reported nausea or cold. With the help of a few doctors, we have set up a medical camp that will have all medicines for them,” Nazir Ahmad Khan, one of the organisers of the protest, said
Dr Harjit Singh Bhatti, former president of the Resident Doctors’ Association, AIIMS, had also tweeted about the health camp. “Doctors, nurses, medical volunteers with ambulance and medicines will be there,” he tweeted.