Rights

Organiser 'Calls Off' Shaheen Bagh Anti-CAA Protest, Locals Continue Dharna

Sharjeel Imam has written on Facebook that the unique protests were being threatened by the BJP and those who looked to maximise political gains out of it.

New Delhi: JNU scholar Sharjeel Imam, one of the organisers and volunteers at the iconic anti-CAA protest at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh has announced through a Facebook post that the movement is being withdrawn. However, in what appears to be a disagreement between the organisers, protesters at the venue have said that the sit-in is still on and the women and volunteers at the site are likely to go ahead with the scheduled protests that have continued for 20 days now.

A road blockade which was scheduled to take place on Thursday, January 2, has been called off, Imam wrote on Facebook. Imam cited the twin causes of “impending violence from party goons” and “politicisation of the stage by parties” as those behind the abrupt stop of the protests.

Imam’s post came in the afternoon. In the meantime, several accounts tweeted that the protests are still on.

Saima Khan, one of the protesters on the ground, spoke to The Wire on the confusion regarding the movement. “There are attempts being made by some of the organisers to stop the movement. But it is very much on,” she said.

Among attendees at Friday evening’s protests were Mahmood Paracha, who is co-convener of the Samvidhan Suraksha Samity along with jailed Bhim Army leader Chandra Shekhar Aazad.

 

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The unique demonstration at Shaheen Bagh had begun in the unrest following the passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the police crackdown on students at Jamia Millia Islamia university who were protesting against the legislation. Women of the area, most Muslim and many of them young mothers, had gathered in peace against the Centre’s CAA move, its plans for a National Register of Citizens and the updation of the National Population Register.

For 20 consecutive days, through Delhi’s most bitter winter in a century, the women stayed put at the site which drew hundreds everyday. Artists and students would often take the stage to address crowds. The protests ended up blocking the road beside the tented venue, even though traffic would be allowed to pass.

Also read: Shaheen Bagh Heralds a New Year With Songs of Azaadi

Imam’s Facebook post indicated that the road block exercise which the protesters had been looking to take on Thursday was in danger of inviting violence from members of Bharatiya Janata Party. He also said police had been asked “not to intervene,” and added that this was because BJP members would most likely introduce elements of violence in the protests themselves and “tarnish” its peaceful nature.

While the movement has no formal organisers and thrives on a roving group of volunteers and the local women’s tenacity alone, there has been increasing attempts to politicise it, said Imam in his post.

“We request all of you to stop sending any assistance to this stage which has been now hijacked by political parties, and cash hungry gangs who don’t care about riots and its implications for the community,” he wrote.

One of the bigger political figures to make their way to the protest venue was Congress’s Salman Khurshid. Khurshid, however, did not address the crowd any longer than the usual 20 or so minutes that were being allotted to each speaker.

Imam also indicated a way forward for the protest, which he said would graduate into a “flash mob strategy” popularised in the Hong Kong protests. The road block exercise too, he wrote, could resume.