Residents of Rakhiyal area in Ahmedabad protest against the new citizenship law on Thursday. (Express photo by Javed Raja)
Expressing solidarity with the women who have been protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) at Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi for more than a month now, residents in and around Rakhiyal area of the city sat on protest for the second consecutive day on Thursday.
The sit-in, on the premises of Ajit Mill at a state government housing scheme — Shaheri Garib Awas Yojana — with predominantly Muslim residents in the more than 700 housing units, began late night on Tuesday.
Kaleem Siddiqui, one of the organisers of the sit-in, said, "Initially it was just men but by Wednesday afternoon, women started coming in. Since this is a private property, we did not require police permission though police tried to stop us. Mohd Sarif A Saiyed, secretary of Khwaja Garib Nawaz Cooperative Housing Society, which is part of the housing scheme, gave us the permission. We plan to continue this sit-in, indefinitely."
With an aim to spread awareness about the new citizenship law, especially when read with the National Population Registry (NPR) and NRC, nearly a hundred women have been protesting since Wednesday. Siddiqui said, “Women sit here from afternoon till evening, after which men take over. We are aiming to mobilise more women in the coming days and make them sit for longer. We are trying to increase awareness about the law, what it means and how it will affect people, especially Muslims.”
Ruksana Sheikh (53), who was at the sit-in on Thursday with a placard that said ‘My documents were burned in 2002 riots, ab kagaz kahan se laaye (where do we get our papers from)’, said, “I studied till Class 7, my parents are dead and the only documents I have are Aadhaar card and voter’s ID card. There’s no birth certificate or school-leaving certificate. How am I supposed to prove my citizenship when they come for NRC and NPR exercise? We used to live in slums on the banks of the Sabarmati river before it became Sabarmati riverfront. Where are we supposed to go if we are not citizens of India, according to them? We don’t have the money or means to make the rounds of government offices to get documents made. Forget me, I may not have too many years to live, but what about my children and grandchildren? The fight is for the next generation and their right to be Indian citizens as we have been here for generations.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Fasiha Ikram (28), who cleared Jamia Millia Islamia’s doctoral programme on West Asian Studies in 2015, expressed concerns about “police brutality” at her alma mater as well as at other central universities such as JNU and AMU. “When I was studying at Jamia, security used to be so strict that even my parents or sister never saw our hostel rooms. When they would visit, we would have lunch in the lawns. How is it possible that police got unfettered access to the hostels and library?” asked Ikram.
“The government who collect taxes from us is supposed to solve the problems being faced by our youth in terms of unemployment and education. Instead, they are attacking the students. There are no answers on the economic situation of our country but they have the time and energy of enacting such a law. How are they going to finance the exercise of NRC and NPR? If we are not citizens, why did they take our votes to come to power,” she added.
Ikram also took to the stage on Thursday afternoon to address the gathering on the aspects of the new citizenship law along with other students