Monday, 30th October 2017

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UP iron-fist fails to crush women

By late night, some 250 women and children had occupied the Ghanta Ghar clock tower

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 18.01.20, 4:00 AM
  • Updated 18.01.20, 4:00 AM
  • 2 mins read
Women at the protest against the amended citizenship law and the NRC at the Ghanta Ghar clock tower in Lucknow on Friday Picture by Naeem Ansari

A landmark in Lucknow fell on Friday to a sudden swoop by Shaheen Bagh-style protesters, undeterred by boasts of demonstrators being “shot like dogs” in the state, whose administration claims to have checked the citizenship protests.

By late night, some 250 women and children had occupied the Ghanta Ghar clock tower in the Husainabad locality, just 1.5km from the seat of power in Uttar Pradesh.

Some 40 women and children had come in groups of three or four from various directions and gathered at the spot around 8pm, beating the city-wide ban on assemblies of more than four people.

By 9pm, their number had grown to 200 — half of them women, mostly aged 30 to 60, and the remaining half children above 10. Some sat on the long and wide lower steps of the 238-year-old, seven-storey, 220ft-tall structure while the rest settled on mats and rugs spread on the sprawling paved courtyard.

The men supporting them kept their distance, standing in small knots around the edges of the courtyard and the streets outside. The police stood in a corner, waiting.

Asked by The Telegraph, Kausar Imran, a middle-aged woman, denied the protest had any leaders or organisers.

“We have come from different parts of Lucknow, resolved to die rather than leave this place till the citizenship law is withdrawn,” she said. “We have come with mats, mattresses and bed sheets. A large team of police and Rapid Action Force personnel arrived but they are not interfering with us.”

She, however, added: “But electricity was cut off (to the clock tower and the streetlights outside) and the public toilet nearby was locked to trouble us. We don’t care for such small things, though.”

Sometime later, power returned to Ghanta Ghar although the streets stayed dark.

Asked about the police’s plans, an inspector shrugged and said: “We don’t need to do anything; we expect them to return home in the night.”

Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh had said protesters were being “shot like dogs” in BJP-ruled states like Uttar Pradesh, although the police have denied firing. Nineteen protesters have died of bullet injuries.

Rukhsana Jia, in her early 40s, said: “We have come here to save our lives but if the government wants, it can kill us.”

Hafiza Faheem, 18, said: “We have been watchful not to let criminals infiltrate our protest. We are asking men we don’t know not to stand near us as this is a protest by women and children alone.”

Uttar Pradesh is witnessing a six-day-old occupation, led by women, of an Allahabad park. The Ghanta Ghar protest is the second Shaheen Bagh-inspired sit-in in the state.