Shaheen Bagh Protest Raises Grave Public Concern

Dr. Jaipal Singh
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When protests against the Citizen (Amendment) Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) started in many parts of the country overtly and covertly endorsed and escalated by some political parties, and clerics and radical groups of the particular minority community around mid-December 2019, initially it took ugly turn with a large scale arson, violence and damage to public property. Despite a vicious propaganda campaign with little truth and mostly exaggeration about the excesses, the government stayed resolved while simultaneously starting mass education campaign on CAA and NRC and the police acted firmly and effectively to deal with the violent agitation.

Therefore, the strategy was changed by the agitators and they started sit-in dharna at many places pushing their women and children at the site with men largely providing logistics and back up support as also maintaining a watchful eye to regulate the visitors and outsiders at the venue. The Shaheen Bagh in Southeast Delhi soon became the centre for intense anti-government activities which ideally suited for this due to significant population of the protesting community and remarkable presence of the organizations and outfits in the locality inciting and supporting the cause. Inflammatory and outrageous speeches, antinational slogans and consequent action against extreme elements like Sharjeel Imam, members of the PFI and other outfits has become a routine ever since and sit-in dharna in Shaheen Bagh has almost completed two months with no sign of withdrawal so far.

For the opposition parties like the Congress and Aam Admi Parti, the Shaheen Bagh has become like tourist spot as some or the other political leader from these parties has so often visited here to show their solidarity and sympathy with the cause of the community. Of course, the cause itself is quite blurred because the CAA has absolutely no implication on any Indian Muslim, and for that matter any other community including Hindus. Then with reference to specific question, it has already been admitted in writing in the Parliament that currently central government has no plan to implement NRC beyond Assam, which was done under the direction of the Supreme Court.

The area and road which has been captured by the protesters of the particular community connects Delhi with adjoining Noida. Needless to mention, his siege has led to tremendous inconvenience to daily commuters. Because one access road is totally blocked, there is heavy pressure on other roads between Delhi and Noida daily leading to heavy traffic jams causing mental and physical stress and harassment to lakhs of people. The irony of the situation is both the Delhi government (their support to dharna is obvious) and central government are blaming each other but none has taken any effective measure so for to salvage this imbroglio. The law and order being state subject, so the Delhi government should take action but they raise technical point that Delhi police is under the central government; on the other hand, in a similar case of sedition following anti-national activities in JNU almost three years back, the same Delhi government is still sitting over the file submitted by police more than a year back at the direction of the Delhi High Court.

Monday, the 8th February 2020 was marked with following related developments in Delhi:

(1) Acting on plea of one Amit Sahni, whose petition on the subject was earlier dismissed by the High Court; the Supreme Court has now sought response from the Delhi police and Central Government on removal of agitators from the Shaheen Bagh. The Supreme Court bench observed, “The protests have been on for a long time. There cannot be an indefinite period of protest in a common area. It could be done at an area identified for protests. Can someone block the public road?” However, in response to the petitioner plea for interim relief, the bench posted the matter for next hearing on 17 February 2020.

(2) Jamia Milia Islamia students and some locals once again clashed with Delhi Police on Monday after being stopped by them near Holy Family Hospital in Okhla. The protesters had taken out a protest march against CAA, NRC and NPR from Jamia University to Indian Parliament in Delhi's Lutyen zone. The police was seen urging protesters to restrict it locally as the permission to take out the march to Parliament had been rejected. However, the protesters retaliated, engaged with the police in a sort of tug of war, broke and jumped barricades. This high tension drama continued for hours.

(3) Shaheen Bagh presented another familiar scene where senior Congress Leader and former Law Minister Salman Khurshid was seen showing solidarity with the protesters. In a particular scene, a small child, perhaps hardly 2-3 years old, in his parent’s lap was seen shouting familiar slogan “Chheen ke lenge azadi!” with the jubilant crowd and Mr Khurshid cheering them up!…This bizarre episode continued quite for some time. This azadi slogan has been viral in many parts since such protests started with different people describibg it differently. There are people like Sharjeel Imam and supporters who talk of breaking India in parts, while some others relate it to a resolve of decimating BJP and RSS.

(4) The protesters, however, did not block a small funeral procession in the area and allowed it to pass through peacefully.

(5) In another part and for a different reason, the all women students of the Gargi College held a protest against the molestation of students by a group of outsiders who had gatecrashed a college cultural festival; these hooligans reportedly groped, molested and even assaulted several women students. The students alleged that this happened although Rapid Action Force and Delhi Police personnel were deployed close to the gate from where the men allegedly entered.

In a democracy, the people have right to register protest on any issue or cause, peacefully though; in Delhi, reportedly Ramlila Ground has been earmarked place for such public gathering and protest with due permission. But here the issue or cause itself is questionable because the CAA is not pertinent to any protesters unless they relates it to Khilafat Movement of 1920s where the Indian Muslims were fighting the cause of Caliphate in Turkey. Now in Indian context, even such an idea is atrocious and the protesters do not have any locus standi to continue protest on CAA and NRC. It does not make any sense that a person or people live in India and fight with own state for an illegitimate cause of other nationalities.

Seven decades back, the main reason for the birth of Pakistan was religious hate and bigotry. It is well known that even in modern Pakistan, the course curriculum itself is so designed that the children are taught same hateful lessons and grow with anti-India sentiments. One can well imagine the future of children in India, who are being used in protests at the venues like Shaheen Bagh by their parents, taught slogans like “Chheen ke lenge azadi” (We will snatch freedom) and, in turn, talk of harming the prime minister or home miniter of the country. Some media channels and journalists were seen glorifying protesters of Shaheen Bagh for allowing passage to funeral procession as if blocking the public road is their fundamental right.

In this entire hullabaloo, the event which is really worrisome demanding urgent attention is the one at the Gargi College. The safety and security of women and children continues to be a cause of great concern in the national capital region. Now here is an incident where hooligans and anti-social elements forcibly enter a reputed educational institution, misbehave and violate modesty of women students and then escape without being nabbed and punished by security forces deployed in the vicinity. While so much attention is paid by media and public for the political stunts like Shaheen Bagh keeping police and administration at tenterhooks, inglorious and disgraceful events like the one at Gargi College largely remain unnoticed and unactioned.

But the aforesaid incidents are suffice to conclude that the relevant political parties i.e. both BJP and AAP are more interested in own vote politics than any real concern or care for the common man; the former by opposing Shaheen Bagh type events and the latter by supporting it overtly and covertly. While the Delhi police decides and struggles to stop Jamia protesters at the Holy Family Hospital some 11 km away from the Parliament, they remain supposedly ignorant of the misdemeanour conducted against women students at the Gargi College despite being deployed next door as also remain indifferent to the daily nemesis of inconvenience caused to an estimated 10 lakhs daily commuters to and fro between Delhi and Noida due to sieze of road at Shaheen Bagh for the last two months. Obviously, both the political parties have been playing snake and ladder game with Delhi police being used as dice.

More By  :  Dr. Jaipal Singh

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