The Shaheen Bagh protest is an ongoing demonstration, led mostly by women, against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC). With the number of protestors reaching as high as 100,000, the Shaheen Bagh protest has become one of the longest peaceful protests of its magnitude in modern India. Carried out by women, the ‘leaderless’ Shaheen Bagh sit-in is often referred to by the supporters of the protest as a site of modern-day Satyagraha.
Where is Shaheen Bagh located?
Shaheen Bagh is situated along the banks of the Yamuna and is the southernmost colony of Okhla in New Delhi. The area connects places like Noida, Nehru Place, Okhla, Jasola and Jamia Nagar.
Shaheen Bagh protests
Protests at Shaheen Bagh began from December 15, 2019, three days after the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) in both Houses of Parliament and the police intervention that followed against students at Jamia Millia Islamia. It has become the longest ongoing protest against CAA, NRC and National Population Register (NPR).
What is CAA?
On December 12, 2019, the Citizenship amendment Bill (CAB) became the CAA after being passed by Parliament. It provides for the grant of Indian citizenship to those Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who migrated from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan on or before December 31, 2014. The Act has drawn opposition across the country as it omits Muslims in the list of communities considered for the grant of citizenship.
Who are participating in the Shaheen Bagh protest?
The Shaheen Bagh protest, which began with only 10-20 women, later attracted thousands others. It has since become a 24x7 protest at the site by students, professionals, activists, Muslim women, children, lawyers and several other people from all walks of life. Elderly women aged over 80 and 90 years have also joined the protest.
How are people protesting at Shaheen Bagh?
Shaheen Bagh, once a little unknown locality, has witnessed an explosion of art, including posters, photos, paintings and graffiti, with ideas from students, local residents and artists. A tent has been set up to house the women protesters and their children. A bus stop has been converted into a library so that people could read books to understand the Indian Constitution, racism, fascism, revolution, oppression and various other social issues.
A mini replica of India Gate has been installed with names of those killed during the anti-CAA protests across India. A 40-foot iron-welded structure in the shape of India’s map has also erected by protesters, with "We the people of India reject CAA-NPR-NRC" written on it.
Every day, there are speeches, lectures and poetry. Inter-faith prayers are held and scriptures from the Bhagavad Gita, Bible and Quran have been read at the site previously. Sikh volunteers have also served langars to protestors. On January 26, 2020, the protesters celebrated the Republic Day by unfurling the tricolour at Shaheen Bagh.
The sit-in protest has received worldwide attention and been covered extensively by the press, both national and international.
The controversy around the Shaheen Bagh protest
In the campaign for the Delhi Assembly election, the opposition of CAA, especially at the Shaheen Bagh protest, has been a much-talked-about issue, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) using it to attack one another. While campaigners of the BJP, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah, have referred to the Shaheen Bagh protest as a law-and-order issue backed by the ruling AAP and tried to label the protestors as anti-nationals, the AAP has desisted from taking sides. While Shah has repeatedly tried to link the protest with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his AAP, Kejriwal has maintained that Shah himself is responsible for law and order in the national capital. Since Delhi is a Union Territory, its police and intelligence machinery come under the purview of the Union home ministry.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has in his public speeches claimed that Shaheen Bagh is “offering a platform for the anti-India gangs”. Among other leaders of the BJP who have faced the Election Commission action for making inflammatory speeches involving Shaheen Bagh and other anti-CAA protests are West Delhi Member of Parliament Parvesh Verma and Union Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also said in an election rally that the ongoing anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh and other localities were a 'political experiment' and not a coincidence.
Previously, the BJP IT Cell head, Amit Malviya, had claimed that the women at Shaheen Bagh were paid Rs 500 to Rs 1,200 a day, along with the promise of refreshments, by the Congress party to stage protests at the venue. Some other politicians have also tried to paint the protestors as anti-national, pro-Pakistani, and supporters of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Blocking of road
Protestors at Shaheen Bagh have blocked the road connecting Noida to Kalindi Kunj, causing inconvenience to travellers and students. Some people have been demanding the opening of the road and removal of barricades from the roads.
Violence at Shaheen Bagh
On February 1, 2020, a man claiming to be a Hindu fundamentalist entered the barricaded area at Shaheen Bagh and opened fire near the stage where people were protesting. However, there was no casualty and the miscreant was taken into custody.