Calcutta’s Shaheen determined to stay put
The sit-in by women on Park Circus Maidan against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register had yet another visitor from Delhi on its seventh day.
Umar Khalid, a civil rights activist and former JNU student, reached the protest venue on Monday and hailed the spirit of the women. Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav of Delhi had visited the Maidan on January 11.
Khalid termed the nationwide protests “a first since Independence where Muslim brothers and sisters are fighting for their constitutional rights”.
“What we are seeing in India is unprecedented. There are no leaders; people are the leaders. Women in Calcutta doing something similar to Shaheen Bagh is reassuring... women in Delhi are clearly not alone. We have seen such people’s protests in Tahrir Square (Egypt), Hong Kong and Chile; but the fact that this is happening in India will go down in the history of our nation.”
The crowd of women, men and children swelled to almost 700 from the 200-odd protesters soon after Khalid’s arrival.
“The BJP has tried to create a regime of fear over the past few years. People have reclaimed the streets. They have come out and asserted their rights. This is the first victory as they have overcome their fear,” Khalid told Metro.
The sit-in started on January 7 with a dozen women camping in the open with the Tricolour and posters denouncing the CAA, NRC and the NPR.
The numbers started going up the next day and many reached the protest venue with their children.
Now, more than 50 women are spending their nights on the Park Circus Maidan. All of them told Metro that they would continue with the protest till the Centre withdrew the CAA, NRC and the NPR.
Nilofer Sadique, a homemaker who has been camping at the venue since January 7, said it was difficult to bear the chill at night but none would back off. “The nights are difficult because of the cold but we are determined to stay put till the government rolls back the CAA.”
A shed is all that the women have over their heads. There is no tent to protect them from the wind.
Scores of people returning from office dropped in at the sit-in on Monday. There were many like Anita Basu, 58, and her daughter Soumita Basu, 29, who came to lend their support.
“Neither my mother nor I have ever participated in a sit-in or a rally, but this matter brought us here. We felt we must come here to protest rather than write on social media platforms,” Soumita, on a wheelchair, said.
Singer-songwriter Kabir Suman and singer Moushumi Bhowmick visited the Maidan on Monday to show their solidarity with the protesters.
The duo sang Tagore’s Aguner Poroshmoni, to which several women joined in chorus. The ones who did not switched on the lights of their mobile phones in support.
The protesters armed with posters shouted slogans such as “Hum kya chahte? Azaadi”.