In Lucknow, a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) is gaining ground at the city’s clock tower, with more and more women participating, despite the police snatching away their blankets and food on Saturday night, 18 January.
Social Activist Rafat Fatima and Pooja Shukla, the national vice president of Samajwadi Party’s student wing told The Quint how it all began.
Shukla said, “It started on Friday when three-four women sat at Ghanta ghar (clock tower). They called me around 3 pm and asked for support. They said they just want more people to join them. We started inviting more people through Facebook to help the movement grow. On the first day, there were 200-300 people.”
‘Police Took Away Blankets, Threw Water on Bonfires’
She added that the next day, people in large numbers poured in near the clock tower.
“Soon after, the police misbehaved and took away the blankets, mats and food. They even splashed water on our bonfires, the public toilets have been closed. Every day they shut the electricity after 9 pm and we use candles.”
She also added the number of women have drastically increased. On Sunday, more than 5,000 women participated in the protests. Men are not allowed as the nature of the protest is women-centric; however, a lot of them are coming forward to help the protesters.
“Our protest is against CAA, NRC and NPR. It's also in solidarity with the women of Shaheen Bagh, Khureji and everywhere else. The government accuses the women of being sold out, of taking money for biryani, but this is wrong. the fight is also against patriarchy,” said Shukla.
‘Jahan Jiye Hain, Wahin Marenge’
Fatima also pointed out that despite what the police did on Saturday night, several protesters offered food to the police. She said that the police drink water, eat food from the very people that they snatched away the food from.
Fatima also recalled meeting an old lady, whose words warmed her heart.
“On Sunday, when people thought the police were coming, some of them panicked. This old woman called us when she thought we were running. The old lady, touted to be above 75 years told us, “ Humare buzurg yahi rahe hain, unhone jaan yahi di. Hum yahi shahadat payenge. Jahaan paida hue, wahi marenge” (Our elders lived here, they died here, we will also die on this land).
Fatima further said, “Men may not be allowed but they are standing with us. They are also offering us medical aid. The police is shooing them away, not letting them in.”
From ‘Azadi’ Solgans to ‘Saare Jahan Se Accha’
Fatima stated, “In the cold night, the women did not move from their place. They stood their ground. They know that the police is trying to scare them away, either by taking away their blankets or by throwing water on their bonfires. But they are not scared.”
"“Myriad of slogans and chants can be heard at the protests. Right from the ‘Azadi’ slogans at Jamia, JNU, to the reading of the Constitution and singing ‘Saare Jahaan se accha’.”" - Rafat Fatima, Social Activist
She also said that the women formed human chains around the clock tower and on Sunday even made a rangoli.
Meanwhile, Abdul Rahman, a volunteer helping the women regularly also corroborated what the women said.
“I was with the people whose blankets they took away. I don't know them personally but I knew they were helping. The police targeted a car that was filled with blankets and food for the women. The third time the car came, that's when the police stopped it,” he told The Quint.
All three of them stated the police on Friday night arrested a man at the protest who was helping them with the blankets. They said they only released him two days later on Sunday.
What Is the Police Saying?
Three women police officers have filed an FIR against 14 protesters, alleging “disobedience,” and “rioting.” They have named four of them — Sumaiya Rana, Faujiya Rana, Rukhsana and Safiya in the FIR.
Earlier, the Lucknow police posted this through their Twitter handle:
The Police wrote, “During the illegal protest going at Lucknow's Ghantaghar Park (Clock Tower), some people tried to make a 'gheraa' (cordon) using ropes and sticks, and also tried to put sheets. They were not allowed to do so. Some organisations were distributing blankets in park premises. As a result of which, people living in the vicinity, who are not a part of the protests, were coming to take the blankets.”
Further they stated, “Police removed those persons and organisations distributing blankets there, and action is being initiated against them,” urging people not to spread any rumours.
Lucknow's Police Commissioner Sujeet Pandey also dismissed the allegations levelled by the protesters, reported PTI.
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