The court asked the police to look into the issue of traffic while keeping in mind that law and order is kept in place. The Delhi Police, in turn, said they will not be using force to evict protestors, and hope they will “comply”. And while it is true that the traffic situation in the area has become a problem, today, I look into why we must fight for Shaheen Bagh to stay put, because I hate to break it to you, traffic inconvenience is a much smaller problem in the face of Indians potentially being stripped off their citizenship.
Delhi has very clear “musalmano ke ilaqe”, the smaller, cramped areas with electricity and sanitation problems, hardly any proper schools. These places were further demonized after the Batla House encounter, and the people there were quickly deemed “terrorist sympathisers”. With Muslims being denied housing in “posh areas” they started carrying with them a feeling of being “othered” quickly made them cramp up in small areas where they felt a sense of “belonging” - that’s how we found our ‘Muslim ghettos’, which are very much a reality in the heart of a city like Delhi. They’re there because that is exactly where they live. How do you expect mothers to carry their babies and travel over long distances? So really, what “maidans” should they protest in and why expect them to care about “inconvenience from traffic jams”?
But here’s the thing, they still do care. “Just like we have been making way for ambulances all this while, we can make way for school buses too. We are open to a discussion. But we won’t move until the CAA-NRC are scrapped,” said Hina Ashraf, a 30-year-old protester told The Print.
My question to you is this: Do you really expect no inconvenience when people are literally fighting for their identity as Indians? And does your “inconvenience from traffic” weigh much in front of their ordeal? Why are we expecting people to shift base and “think of commuters” when we can’t think of an entire community being threatened, ridiculed, humiliated by the govt, at the brink of losing their rights as citizens? Does our convenience hold more than the constitution’s value falling like a pack of cards?
Now, I speak for this cause, the cause that fights for equality, the cause that fights for the rights of minorities, the rights of the poor, the rights of the marginalized: Shaheen Bagh and its strong women who have refused to move regardless of the cold, the abuse, the criticism, are a symbol of the strength the most downtrodden of this country look for in such dark times. Shaheen Bagh invites people of all faith and causes to join in, be it farmers from Punjab or students from JNU. It welcomes people with open arms.
Shaheen Bagh has become a constant reminder for people across the country to not stop fighting the powers that be, and to not give up in the face of adversity. People ask, but what will such sit-in protests do? Why should people be inconvenienced? What are the results we are looking for?
Well, let’s have some examples speak for me. Such an occupation was seen in Egypt’s Tahrir square most recently with the Egyptian revolution which started on 25 January 2011, where millions of protestors gathered protesting the increase in police brutality amongst other issues, and demanded that President Mubarak resign. On 11 February 2011, Vice President Omar Suleiman announced exactly that. A wave of similar demonstrations were seen in Ukraine which began on the night of 21 November 2013, when the President refused to sign an agreement to become part of the EU. Public protests on the ‘Independence Square’ started where protestors refused to move from. These protesters were brutally attacked by the police, yet they refused to move.
Eventually, the president fled the country. So why are these sit-in protests important, you ask? Because they mean business. Because they are a loud declaration of the common man who lives of his daily wage, saying ‘enough is enough’, we want what we want, and we will not leave till we get it. Because they fuel the fire of rebellion that connects all members of resistance. If Shaheen Bagh falls, so will the fight.
Truly, Shaheen Bagh has become the heart of the anti-CAA protests, and a few privileged groups who file petitions because their children have to “wake up early” and because they’re “stuck in jams” is not a good enough reason to make the heart stop beating.
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