In Shaheen Bagh, Children Paint Their Protest while Mothers Hold Dharna

Graffiti made by students and artists as part of the ongoing protest against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at Shaheen Bagh, on January 19, 2020 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)


As chants of “Azaadi” reverberate in Shaheen Bagh, children who accompanied their parents to the protest against CAA are spending their time well - learning  various crafts.  

Usama Zakir, a resident of the neighbourhood, has been coming to Shaheen Bagh since the 14th day of the protests, which started a month ago. Usama’s reason for coming to the protests is not only to show solidarity with the women who have been sitting for the protest, but also to engage their children with reading, painting and other activities. 

A teacher by profession, Usama says, “The idea is to engage young energy and their enthusiasm around this protest and offer them a happy constructive distraction and keep them busy with activities such a painting, poster making, puppetry, and others.”  


Usama Zakir with the children at Shaheen Bagh.

Painting an Emotion

Shaheen Bagh, a quiet neighborhood in the Okhla area in Delhi, has now become the face of the anti-CAA demonstrations, which  have trickled down to other parts of the country. But the area does not have a gore face one would expect.

At the Shaheen Bagh protest site, a small lawn near the stage has been occupied by children of the protesting women, where they sit together to paint, read and do other activities.

Usama says that this spot is a good learning space for the kids. He adds that the  children go to school in the morning and come to the protest venue after school, later in the afternoon. Usama also joins at around the same time.

Many other students, teachers, and civilians volunteer every day to join the likes of Usama to engage the children in constructive activities. Most of them are from Jamia Millia Islamia University and from the neighbourhood.

Every day, four or five artists hold workshops on story-telling, painting, or puppetry for the children there. One of the well-known names to show up was author Himanshu Bajpai, who narrated a dastan (an ornate form of storytelling)  to the kids for nearly three hours, captivating the little minds so much that some of the kids narrated stories back to him as well.   

A scene from the local residents' protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Shaheen Bagh area in New Delhi, India, January 19, 2020. (Photo by Indraneel Chowdhury/Getty Images)

Alina and Laiba, fifth standard students of Ayesha Children Academy, were amongst the children at the protest site. The duo claims that they like coming to Shaheen Bagh every day as they get to paint, read, and meet friends. Their mother sits with the protestors while Alina and Laiba sit with other children in the designated area where they indulge in these activities. 

The volunteers give them topics to make posters and paint, and use other means to show put their ideas on paper. Usama says, “We give them topics like a forest fire in Amazon, violence in JNU, and they reflect their thoughts through their painting and posters.”


(Edited by Athira Nair)