Zafar Aafaq | Caravan Daily
NEW DELHI – At Shaheen Bagh, the mood was still tense on Wednesday. The fear of police action loomed large throughout the day on Tuesday, after news broke that the court has allowed the police to manage the traffic on the road blocked by protesters.
Though there was a heightened sense of vigil at the entry points, the proceedings went on as usual.
There was no break in speeches. Whoever wanted to address the crowd came forward and spoke. Periodically, volunteers distributed water and food packets.
The protest gathering of women, which has now entered second month, has braved the winter chill as also resentment from some locals and shopkeepers. The sit in, which has become a symbol of anti-CAA protests, has grown in size and inspired several other cities ad town to hold similar, peaceful sit-ins. The women have occupied a stretch of the road that leads to a national highway, causing inconvenience to commuters and traffic jams on adjacent roads.
They protesters have made up their mind. They are not going to leave the spot, no matter what. “What we are doing is right and no one can stop us from doing the right thing,” said Parveena Khan. “We have gathered for protecting the Constitution.”
There is no organiser or a formal body that runs the sit-in. A collective of volunteers under the guidance of elders keep order here. They “are willing to cooperate with police” to make way for traffic but will never agree to wind up the protest or shift base to another spot. “A decision on this will be taken by the protesters and not by someone from outside,” said a volunteer.
A protester, Shakeela Bano, said that Shaheen Bagh protests will end only when the government takes back the CAA. She said that they are protesting because “it is a matter of their existence and we are not going to compromise on this.”
The Delhi High Court has given police the right to manage the traffic after a petition was filed seeking directions to the cops to clear the protesters. Delhi Police said they are going to use “persuasive methods” to convince the protesters, instead of using‘force”.
Notably, Delhi Police was slammed for its brutal crackdown on students in Jamia Millia Isalmia during protests against CAA and NRC in mid-December. In response to that action, the women of Shaheen Bagh, a locality not far from Jamia, began an indefinite sit- in.
The police have now started consultations with community elders and hoped that they will effect a breakthrough. It remains to be seen whether the negotiations will make any headway in convincing the protesters who are reluctant to budge even an inch.