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Packed ground against CAA

'It’s my country and I am not going anywhere'
Protesters at the Park Circus Maidan sit-in on Sunday.
Protesters at the Park Circus Maidan sit-in on Sunday.
Picture by Bishwarup Dutta

Snehal Sengupta   |   Calcutta   |   Published 19.01.20, 10:10 PM

Park Circus Maidan resembled a sea of heads on Sunday, the 13th day of non-stop protests there being led by women against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens.

A steady stream of people kept entering the protest venue throughout the day. The numbers saw a spike in the evening.

As a number of medical students in white aprons, stethoscopes hanging around the neck of a few, walked in, the crowd broke into loud cheers.

Aishwik Ray, a first-year student at the KPC Medical College and Hospital, and Arya Kamal Roy, a second-year student at Guru Nanak Dental College, said they “had to be here”.

“This is the time when one cannot possibly not protest. Our poverty rate has gone up alarmingly but we have ministers at the Centre who are trying to divide us based on religion,” said Aishwik.

Standing beside the students was 66-year-old Haider Chowdhury, a retired colonel who had visited Park Circus Maidan with wife Runu.

“The CAA is a black law enacted to divide the nation. It is an effective tool to divert attention from real issues facing the nation. Initially, I was in two minds... but I could not sit back and do nothing. So, I am here to show solidarity with these women who have started a mass movement that I believe will lead to revocation of the CAA,” said Chowdhury, who had retired from the Indian army in 2013.

For Presidency University student Atufah Nishat, the protest is a fight for her identity. “Why should I suddenly start running around after documents to prove that I am an Indian. It is my country and I am not going anywhere,” said Nishat, who is pursuing a postgraduate course in sociology.

The protest ground had an inner circle where women were sitting in a fenced zone. Around them were men sitting or standing.

The protesters waved Tricolours and kept shouting slogans against CAA and NRC.

The crowd kept swelling as the evening progressed, prompting the organisers to keep pleading with protesters over the public address system to make room for others.

As one set of volunteers struggled to manage the crowd, another set was distributing cups of tea and biscuits to protesters.

Mohammed Imtiaz Ahmed was seen handing out apples to women. Ahmed, who owns a fruit stall in Lake Market, said he had been participating in the protest for the past week.

“Most of the women here are homemakers who did not have any idea of protest till a few days back. Everyone has family at home, mouths to feed, chores to attend and jobs to do but everybody here is finishing what needs to be done and coming back.

Their spirit can move rocks and we do everything we can to help them,” said Ahmed, who sleeps on a mat placed in the open to keep watch on the 50-odd women protesters who spend the night at Park Circus Maidan.

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