Anti-CAA graffiti, placards, slogans and recitals are now commonplace at streets outside the Jamia Millia Islamia campus, which witnessed a violent police crackdown two weeks ago. Over the last few days, locals and students have been gathering outside Jamia’s Maulana Abul Kalam Azad gate daily to stage protests. The 100-metre-stretch of road outside the campus is now being called Jamia Square, akin to Tahrir Square, which became a symbol of the Egyptian Revolution in 2011.
On Sunday, a street-play called Jamiawala Bagh was organised by the Hamdard Alumni Association outside campus. The play drew parallels between the police action against students and police violence during British rule. It was performed before a crowd of over 500 people, most of whom wore a white bandage on their eye in solidarity with Minhaj, who lost an eye allegedly in the campus violence. Students also gave speeches against the current political regime and the Citizenship Amendment Act.
“The performances and display of art is a democratic and peaceful way of exercising our right. It has now become a culture and it shows that resistance will continue in some form or the other. Our brothers and sisters had to endure so much in the last few days. Their voices won’t be drowned,” said Zahid, a student.
The grills of the campus boundaries were bedecked with flags and banners with text from the Constitution and messages against the Act. From a small counter, a group of students distributed pamphlets listing pointers about the Act. In another corner, a man painted the Tricolour on people’s faces free of cost. On one side, an impromptu poetry session on freedom and literature was on.
The protest also saw children, aged between four and 10 years, holding colourful placards with memes on the Act. “Most children live on the streets, while others are my cousins and their friends. They are too young, but awareness begins at an early age. I drop each child home once the protests are over and ensure their safety at all times,” said Mehdi, while distributing biryani to a famished lot.
A rope running the lengths of Metro pillars demarcated the protest street, while traffic ran smoothly on the other side. Locals guided the vehicles to prevent confusion.
As the evening got colder, the crowds grew bigger. A man carrying free tea and biscuits navigated the rows of people chanting slogans on unity and brotherhood. Suddenly, the loudspeaker came to life and a speech came on, which said, “Whatever happens to us, we must fight”.
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