New Delhi: To express solidarity with the protest at Shaheen Bagh and spread awareness about the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), residents of Rakhiyal area of Ahemdabad staged a demonstration for the second consecutive day on Thursday.
According to the Indian Express, the sit-in protest in Ahemdabad is being held on the premises of Ajit Mill at Shaheri Garib Awas Yojana, a state government housing scheme with predominantly Muslim residents. More than 700 houses are participating in the protest, which began late on Tuesday.
Kaleem Siddiqui, one of the organisers, told the newspaper that initially just men were present but by Wednesday afternoon, women joined in. “Since this is 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,” he told Indian Express.
The protestors aim to spread awareness about CAA and reading it in conjunction with the National Population Registry (NPR) and NRC. Ruksana Sheikh, a 53-year-old protestor, was holding a placard that said ‘My documents were burned in 2002 riots, ab kagaz kahan se laaye (where do we get our papers from). She told IE, “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?”
She said her family used to live in slums on the banks of Sabarmati and was displaced when the riverfront was developed. “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,” she said.
Fasiha Ikram, 28-year-old alumnus of Jamia Millia Islamia, expressed concerns about “police brutality” at her alma mater and at other universities like JNU and AMU. She told the Indian Express that the government should solve the problems that the youth is facing such as 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 asked.
According to Siddiqui, the organiser, while women stage a dharna from afternoon till evening, the men take over later. He said more women are being mobilised, along with spreading awareness about the law and its potential effects on people, especially Muslims and marginalised sections.
The protest at Shaheen Bagh, led by women and into its second month, has inspired people in many cities and towns to hold similar demonstrations. As The Wire has reported, in Patna’s Sabzibagh, protestors have taken over the market area. The protest, which started on January 12, has seen large turnout, with people of all ages braving the cold to keep the area occupied round the clock