Two Years Later, Shaheen Bagh's Anti-CAA Protest Still Holds Enormous Significance

In an effort to show solidarity with activists who were arrested for participating in the protest, several groups held an event at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Thursday.

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New Delhi: 12-year-old Tooba holds a poster she made for the event on Thursday. It reads “celebrating two years of Shaheen Bagh”. The protest site which had become a symbol of dissent and resistance against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) continues to hold enormous significance, more than 18 months after the last protesters were moved out.

In a bid to both celebrate the legacy of the movement and demand the release of all those who have been imprisoned for participating in it, scores of students, members of civil society and activists thronged the protest site near Jantar Mantar in Delhi on Thursday.

Ghazala, like many other women, was at the frontlines of the movement from December 2019 until late March 2020, when the protests came to an end after the COVID-19 pandemic began. “The victory of the farmers and the repealing of the three farm laws have inspired us and given us hope that protesting and resistance do bear fruit, we are taking a cue from those protests and hope to rekindle the movement against CAA,” said Ghazala while speaking to The Wire.

In an effort to show solidarity, Pragtisheel Mahila Sangathan, the National Federation for Women, and the Commission on the Status of Women held an event at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on the second anniversary of the Shaheen Bagh protest commencing. It would soon become the epicentre of the anti-CAA protests.

Speaking to The Wire, Maimoona Mollah of the All India Democratic Women’s Association said, “The movement has not failed, in fact, it has reignited. We are fighting to be on the right side of history and the right side of the constitution. The people have paved a way for the future of the movement, we truly believe we will also bring the government to its knees.”

Family members of activists and students who were part of the protests and were arrested were present at the event. The demands to release those who have been imprisoned under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) echoed at the protest site.

Present at the protest was the father of 25-year-old Athar Khan, who is currently incarcerated in a conspiracy case, said, “My son is innocent. I firmly believe and I know he has not done anything wrong. We sincerely believe in the constitution, the moral right and the absolute truth and he will walk out free.”

His mother added, “I am proud to call myself Athar’s mother. He was extremely active during the movement and led the protests at Chandbagh. I stand here demanding justice for him. He deserves to walk free.”

Khan was detained by the Delhi Police on July 2, 2020. 

File photo of Shaheen Bagh protest. Photo: Raghu Karnad

Nargis Khalid Saif, the wife of 39-year-old Khalid Saifi, was present at the protest with her young daughter. Speaking to The Wire, she said, “I take every opportunity I can to talk about my husband. We are raising our voices as loudly as we can to demand his release. The families of those who have been wronged are awaiting justice and we will not stop until our demands are met.”

She added, “I am with my daughter today. This is an important day for us as all of us are coming together yet again to stand for what is right.” 

After the Narendra Modi government’s U-turn on the farm laws, the anti-CAA protests across India are gaining fresh traction.

The CAA seeks to fast-track the granting of citizenship to non-Muslims who fled because of religious persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan and took refuge in India before December 31, 2014.

According to reports, few organisations in Assam have decided to revive the anti-CAA protests. These organisations include the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) led by activist-turned-MLA Akhil Gogoi and the Asom Jatiya Parishad, a political party.