Slippers on bed, anti-CAA protest at Shaheen Bagh continues amid coronavirus outbreak

The protesters at Shaheen Bagh have refused to vacate the road despite appeals by the government, police and civil society members over the past two weeks when India is facing a threat from a highly contagious coronavirus that has prompted a lockdown in several states including Delhi.
At Shaheen Bagh, protesters symbolically left their slippers on wooden beds on Sunday, March 22, 2020.(Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)
At Shaheen Bagh, protesters symbolically left their slippers on wooden beds on Sunday, March 22, 2020.(Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Mar 23, 2020 05:45 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByPrawesh Lama and Kainat Sarfaraz

Only five women continued to protest at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, the site of nearly 100-day-long sit-in against the Citizenship Amendment Act, on Sunday, and one of them was quick to point out that the decline in numbers was on account of the Delhi government’s restrictions on the assembly of more than five people, not a response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a people’s curfew to combat the spread of Covid-19.

Symbolically, other protestors left their slippers on wooden beds.

In the densely populated residential lanes of Shaheen Bagh, residents came out to their balconies and rooftops at 5 pm but only a few clapped or rang bells --- suggested by Prime Minister Modi as a way of thanking the medical fraternity’s work in fighting coronavirus.

“We acknowledge the work by medical staff but will thank them in our own way. We need not clap or ring bells,” said Afsana, a local resident who gave only one name.

The protesters at Shaheen Bagh have refused to vacate the road despite appeals by the government, police and civil society members over the past two weeks that they do so to prevent endangering themselves and others at a time when India is facing a threat from a highly contagious virus that has prompted a lockdown in several states (including Delhi).

On Saturday night, hours before the people’s curfew was to kick in, two groups of protesters engaged in a minor scuffle arising from differences over continuing the protest or calling it off.

Actor Swara Bhaskar, who has been a supporter of the Shaheen Bagh protesters, too urged them to vacate the road. She tweeted, “My appeal to the amazing Dadis (grandmothers) of Shaheen Bagh and all the feisty women& people of the sit-in protest, across the country & I say this as an ally. In solidarity, Stand up!Self isolate! vacate the streets!Jai Hind.”

Lawyer Menaka Guruswamy also asked the protestors to “withdraw the protest” till “this pandemic abates” in a tweet on Saturday.

Sultana, 45, one of the five protesters, said they were breaking no rules. “We are aware of the coronavirus but will protest until the government takes back the draconian law. We are taking precautions by wearing masks and using sanitisers. The government has allowed the assembly of five persons. Look at us. We are only five here but we will not leave.”

Another protester, Prakash Devi,50 said: “We support the government’s call on Janata curfew. There were hundreds of women before. We are only five now.”

Meanwhile, on Sunday morning, unidentified people threw bottles filled with some inflammable substance at two places near the site—one at a police barricade and another in a lane. Both places are around 100 metres from the site

No one was hurt, police said. Till late evening, police were looking at CCTV footage to identify the attackers.

The five women continued to protest till late Sunday night . Volunteers stood guard outside their tent. Abid Sheikh, one of the organisers of the agitation which started on December 16 last year, said, “We decided last night that only five women and a few volunteers would stay. They would sit at a distance and take all precautions. Our fight is against CAA-NRC and we will support all moves taken to fight the disease.”

Sultana described the attacks near their tent as attempts to silence them. .

Road 13A is an important link between Delhi and Noida.

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