Monday, 30th October 2017

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Shaheen Bagh cleared with earthmovers

Sit-in removed but movement will continue: Tweet

By Pheroze L. Vincent in New Delhi
  • Published 25.03.20, 3:34 AM
  • Updated 25.03.20, 3:34 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Jamia student Simeen Ajnum’s mural after defacement Sourced by Correspondent

Police on Tuesday morning cleared Shaheen Bagh and other sites of protest against the new citizenship matrix in the capital in view of the coronavirus outbreak.

Nine persons, including six women, who resisted were detained. DCP (southeast Delhi) R.P. Meena said they would be booked for violating prohibitory orders imposed in the capital on Sunday night.

Amid heavy police and paramilitary force protection, earthmovers knocked down a 35ft-tall installation of the map of India at Shaheen Bagh. By 9.30am, all protest sites, including the tents, had been cleared.

The Shaheen Bagh Twitter handle tweeted videos of women with faces covered narrating the sudden swoop on Tuesday morning.

A tweet said: “Our sit-in may have been removed and our artistic symbols of hope and resistance destroyed without cause, but our movement will endure and only its physical manifestation will evolve. We also ask civil society at large to help ensure no further detainments or arrests take place from the area.”

Shaheen Bagh protesters had been divided over carrying on with the sit-in after curbs on gatherings were imposed last week. A token protest was being held with no more than five persons gathering at any given time. When the police came calling on Tuesday, three women were present at the tent.

The interlocutors appointed by the Supreme Court to convince the Shaheen Bagh protesters to lift the blockade of G.D. Birla Marg that connects south Delhi with Noida — Sanjay Hedge and Sadhana Ramachandran — issued a statement after the police cleared the site.

“We believe that the Supreme Court-mandated interlocution kept Shaheen Bagh protests peaceful even while violence erupted in other parts of Delhi. Some rigours of the blockade were relaxed by the protesters clearing some peripheral roads. Today the few remaining Shaheen Bagh protesters have been finally dispersed peacefully with minimal force.

“We request everyone to see the issue not as a question of win or loss. The country has a grave pandemic threatening it and currently that must receive priority in terms of everyone’s attention. We request the administration and the protesters to now not do anything that will exacerbate the underlying tensions that culminated in the street protests,” the statement said.

A curfew-like situation prevailed in the area on Tuesday. Residents told this newspaper that even food-delivery agents — permitted to operate under lockdown —were not allowed by the police to enter Okhla on Tuesday.

The protest site outside Jamia Millia Islamia was also cleared although the stir had been indefinitely suspended last week. Several wall murals — of leaders of the national movement, the faces of resistance against the Centre and the movement against the new citizenship regime — were also allegedly defaced.

Safoora Zargar of the Jamia Coordination Committee told The Telegraph: “Our tent, mattresses, some books, and most importantly rations for northeast Delhi’s riot victims kept in a tent, were stolen. They have proven that they just wanted to vandalise, and needed any excuse for it.”

DCP Meena denied that the police had defaced the murals. Jamia officials, however, claimed that a team of 40 workers and police personnel came early on Tuesday morning and cleared the road and painted over the murals on the varsity’s outer walls without informing the authorities.

Simeen Anjum, a fine arts student of Jamia whose wall art was defaced, said: “The purpose of art in public places is to make authorities uncomfortable, and ask questions that people want answers for, which the mainstream media will not cover. We feel a sense of validation in the police’s action.... We will definitely paint again when we have the chance.”