Anti-CAA, NRC Protest: Jamia, Shaheen Bagh Inspire Women in Kolkata

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Women protesters gathered in large numbers at Kolkata’s Park Circus area calling for withdrawal of CAA and cancellation of NRC, NPR. The venue is being called by surrounding people as ‘Shaheen Bagh’ of Kolkata. — Photos by Mohd Aasif/Caravan Daily.

GROUND REPORT

A massive protest erupted at Park Circus in Kolkata as women from different localities decided to sit and hold a protest there day and night against the CAA, NRC, NPR and also against the police brutality on girl students in Jamia and JNU attack.

Mohd Aasif | Caravan Daily

KOLKATA — “We are Indians by birth and by choice. We do not have to prove it to anyone,” said Shaheen Begum, a school teacher addressing her audience at historic Park Circus in the morning of 10 January 2020. At night a day ago, this scribe had visited the place that hogged headlines for the anti-CAA, anti-NRC protests.

The sparks of the Jamia and Shaheen Bagh movement have lit the fire in Kolkata among other parts of the country. A protest erupted on its own in Park Circus area as women from different localities decided they will sit and hold a protest there day and night.

It has been four days since women have been sitting there. Excited, the people around there have started calling it the ‘Shaheen Bagh’ of Kolkata.

Asmat Jamil, in her sixties, runs a non-governmental organisation named Az-zumar. She along with 60 other women from different localities have started sitting in dharna in the park, raising their collective voice against the CAA, NRC, NPR and also against the police brutality on girl students in Jamia.

The protesters said they got inspiration from the women of Shaheen Bagh and the girls of Jamia in Delhi. “We took courage from the Jamia girls. If they could protest, we can also come out into the streets. We are women too,” said Ismat Husain, a housewife.

Asmat Jamil, mother of three, is a woman of 60, and suffers from nephritis. She got her kidney transplanted three years ago. Yet, no pain can obstruct her forward marching steps. She is not ready to lose the freedom, as she notes that a lot of people had given their blood for the freedom of the country. “We will not allow them to snatch away our freedom,” she said.

Women in Kolkata have chosen the path of Satyagrah. Fasting is one form of protest. They might not have had proper meals for sehri and iftaar (meals before and after holding the fast respectively), and they are holding a fast. Initially all 60 of them held the fast. Then, it got converted to a relay fast.

Sehri is not destined for us. We do our Iftaar with whatever we get. We are living a life of faqeer (beggar) and faka (on fast),” said Asmat. On the question of taking so much pain, she idolizes the struggle of the Indian freedom fighters.

Unlike Delhi, the administration here has a tolerant style. Police have not yet tried to evacuate the women from the area even as the protesters have not taken any written permission. Comparing the behaviour of the police in the two big cities, Dr. Shaharyaar said, “At least the police are not behaving like goons, as they did in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.” An ambulance was also seen in stand-by mode in the vicinity of the park.

A senior citizen said the police are reluctant to provide any legal permission for the sit-in women because they are not using any banner. They are simply sitting together. “It is quite a technical issue, but who will the police hold responsible if something goes wrong here,” said Zubair Rabbani.

Women and children are facing some challenges here, though. They have to stay at night without proper shelter. As of now, there are no public toilets there. Hence, the women in protest are using toilets of the adjacent “mosque”. “Though women are not allowed in there in normal days, they are allowed in now on the pretext of a movement,” Dr. Shaharyaar added.

There is lack of proper light arrangement. Hence, women take it as a call of the hour. Ismat Husain, housewife, with throat irritation due to the winter and tonsillitis, said, “Students are our future, any attack on them is an attack on our future. We are thus compelled to come out of our homes.”

Students from various universities in Kolkata have joined the gathering. A group of students was seen holding a protest, with special t-shirts.

People around the Park Circus have started supporting these women who showed a fighting spirit. Some bring water, some bring food, and some have arranged thermo-sheets that save them from the season’s chill.

They seem hopeful about the Supreme Court’s verdict on the CAA-NRC. Asmat Jamil has decided to remain in the protest until the Supreme Court delivered a verdict in their favour. “We hope that the Supreme Court will have mercy on us,” she said.

Students from various universities in Kolkata have joined the gathering. A group of students was seen holding a protest, with special t-shirts.

The bond among the volunteers and protesters is palpable. “Some call me brother, some call me son. Whoever feels what, addresses me that way,” said Aryan, student of economics in Presidency College, Kolkata. He is ready to join every movement that happens in Kolkata. “Be it a rally from a cathedral or a mosque, I am there to join it, if it is against NRC and CAA,” he said, emphasizing the nature of the movement.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, usually addressed as Didi, has declared that West Bengal will not implement NRC. Still, the youth is not so sure about it. Calling it a “populist” vote bank policy, Pallav said, “The government has already published the notification on NPR in many districts, which is a backdoor entry for NRC.”

The honesty and commitment of the protesting women are worthy of appreciation. Shafeeka Hasan (60), courageous and ready to face even a lathi-charge, said, “We will face the wrath of the police if such a situation arises.”

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