Anti-CAA stir: Women brave bitter Delhi cold with mattresses and tarpaulin

Representative Image | The trouble due to cold is nothing compared to what the government will put us to, a woman said

Mattresses remain hung out on the iron grille of a road divider through the day, next to tarpaulin sheds, before being laid out on the street for the night. A tricolour forms the backdrop of a makeshift dais, metres away from a police team maintaining vigil.

In the dark, a strikingly large red banner says "Stop Police Brutality".

As the air gets more frigid towards the evening, the number of people on Kalindi Kunj Road in south Delhi thins out, leaving behind a large group of women on a 1,000-sq metre stretch who show extraordinary courage and remain unyielding in the face of merciless cold.

Preparing for the night, the women from Shaheen Bagh roll out foam sheets.

"I am fighting for the future of my daughter, like our ancestors fought for our freedom. I don't want her to grow up in a detention centre. What will I tell her when she will be my age?" says Rehana Khatun, 22, who joined the sit-in on December 16 with her four-day-old daughter, who's wrapped in woollens.

The trouble due to cold is nothing compared to what the government will put us to, she adds.

The women have been protesting for 13 days against the new citizenship law and the proposed pan-India National Register of Citizens. They were also at the forefront of the protests near Jamia Millia Islamia, which had seen violence and police crackdown on students.

Sahiba Khan, 33, says around 200-250 women have made the road-stretch their home.

"During daytime, the number of protesters swells to thousands. Most of those who come from outside return at night. But we are not going anywhere," she says.

"Our brothers and sisters from all faiths have been supporting us. Else, it would have been much more difficult in this numbing cold," Khan says.

Tarannum Begum, 45, says the nature is putting the protesters to a test, but "we stand unaffected like mountains".

A resident of the Batla House area, Begum says she's been home just thrice in the last two weeks.

"We have been using the restrooms of local residents. They have been providing us mattresses, food, medicine, refreshments etc. We don't know how worse the weather is going to get, but we will keep fighting nonetheless," she says.

A team of around 100 volunteers including students have been providing snacks and tea to the women at regular intervals.

But shops along the roadside remain shut and traffic movement restricted.

On Thursday, police appealed a co-ordination committee to convince the women to end the sit-in, but they didn't budge.

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