Near the Shaheen Bagh metro station in India’s national capital New Delhi, hundreds of people gather here every day to voice their protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which recently became an act after the bill was passed in both the houses – Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
It is the 14th day of continuous protest in Shaheen Bagh. The exceptional aspect of the protest is that it is witnessing a large number of women protesters every day. Women and children are busy listening to various speakers speaking against the citizenship Act. The majority of the men here stand aside while giving support to the movement and also the participation of women in the protest. The stage here is also a platform to activists, politicians, students, musicians, and singers; who are protesting against the act in their own ways.
Around 10 PM at night, the temperature is cold enough decreasing to 9 degrees Celcius in Shaheen Bagh. But the protest here sees no end. Maryam Khan is a housewife, she is a part of the protest and has been joining the protest along with her two children here from the last 12 days. Upon asking about why she thinks it is important to be a part of this protest at the cold weather that too with these children, she says, “What do you think, we are protesting here meaninglessly? No, we are not. We are protesting to strengthen the unity of the citizens and to save them from any kind of division. Now, this is a matter of our existence. The act is completely unconstitutional and discriminates against the Muslims.” She further says that many have sacrificed their lives for the country, and now women like her should have to stand to save the country. Upon asking about the family’s support in regard to her joining in the movement, she says, “They are stopping us, but this is the situation that has compelled us to be here. Even the men in the family are protesting, why should not the women? The family is allowing us now.”
Many protesters here perceive the Citizenship Amendment Act as having a strong relation to that of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR). Seema Mishra is a Lawyer, she is a part of the movement and attending protest rallies in different parts of the city. Seema is here to support the protesters in Shaheen Bagh. ” I’m protesting to save the constitution. The act is discriminatory and it goes against the core of the constitution. It is not only discriminatory but completely arbitrary. The CAA along with NPR and NRC is extremely dangerous. I hold the opposition as responsible as the government in this regard,” says Seema Mishra questioning the government’s stance on the matter.
When we try to talk to protesters about the National Register of Citizens, most of them question on the issue of documents that are to be submitted if a nation-wide NRC process is initiated. Saba is a UPSC aspirant joining the movement from the last several days. She thinks that women are now more active and participating in the movement in large numbers. Her concern is about the documents in NRC and its relation to that of CAA. “If a nation-wide NRC process is started, it will impact many people negatively. Be it about Adhivasis or poor people, the cannot even show the documents. How will we show them the old documents? This process and act are against the constitution.” Seema Mishra’s views in this context are similar. She says,” Even the government documents spell wrong names and this may create problems if a further process is initiated. Even in Assam, a huge amount of money is spent, how can the same be done here?
Sudha Shankar is a non-violent communication trainer. She is here to support the protesters. For her, the participation of women and children in the protest is encouraging and gives her a lot of hope. ” I’m here because I believe that India is a secular country. I think it is time to take a stand when the decision goes against what we believe. Look at the crowd, it is full of women. It is very important for women to come out like this, says Sudha. ” 48-year-old Rumana Khan is joining the protest with her daughter and granddaughter. ” As an Indian citizen, I’m raising my voice here for the rights of Indians irrespective of any religion. But the CAA is against a community, and this is where it is wrong. I am here on behalf of everyone and every Indian, speaking for their rights,” says Rumana. She further said that her family did not stop her from joining the protest because it is their fight for rights.
Nabiya Khan is a poet and writer who is part of the movement, performing in different protest rallies in the city. Nabiya is here at the protest spot to perform in front of the protesters to raise the issue with her poems. Upon talking about women’s participation in the movement Nabiya says,” It is not for the first time that women are participating movement, we have been a part several movements in India. No matter what, this time we are giving a push to the protest and making it more strong.” Sania is busy serving biscuits to the protesters. She is a school student, but a part of the protest on the ground that she wants to save the constitution. “It is our right to protest and we will save the constitution,” Sania says in a loud voice. And the protest sees no end even on its 14th day.