As night falls on the Jamia Millia Islamia campus, four men begin a sit-in they have kept up for over a month now. Protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the four have been sitting inside the campus overnight, not sleeping, braving the unsparing chill and occasional rain.
The quadrat includes a PhD student, a school scholar, a mobile shop owner, and a former traffic police employee. The recurring themes in their conversations with passers-by are saving the Constitution, how CAA and NRC are “draconian”, and the secular nature of the ongoing protests. Three of them are from Jamia Nagar, while another is from Turkman Gate.
Mohammed Razi Anwar, the PhD student, stands in front of gate no. 7 of the university. Covered in a tricolour, he holds a neck-to-toe anti-CAA placard. Anwar, 27, was there when the Delhi Police had forcefully entered Jamia campus on December 15 last year, beating up students and lobbing tear-gas shells at them. Two days later, Anwar started his vigil outside the campus gate.
“I was reading in the library when police swooped on us. Some of my friends were severely injured. Besides, the CAA combined with NRC spells doom for the whole country. These factors firmed my resolve to silently protest from noon to 4 am,” Anwar said.
A few yards away at gate no. 10 stands Anis, a Class 9 student with his brother Sajid. He said he was hit by the police when he was going to school. “You don’t wake up until your house is on fire. I was struck four times by police on December 15,” the 16-year-old paused and showed on his mobile phone the welts he had suffered in police action.
Despite conceding that his studies may get affected, Anis said he will continue to protest. “Can studies be more important than the Constitution?” he asked.
Sajid, 22, who runs a mobile shop, joined the midnight protest on new year’s eve with his younger brother. “On New Year’s Eve, I was passing by and saw Razi Anwar bhai. I was inspired by him and joined him,” he said.
Sadik Khan, a former contractual employee with the traffic police, quit his job on December 15 to join the midnight protest. “Aaj hum chaar hain, kal 400 honge, parso 4,000. Ye caravan badhta chala jayega (Today, we are four, tomorrow 400, and the day after 4,000. This caravan will keep getting bigger),” Khan said.
Even as the four have been sitting on a midnight vigil for over a month, they are occasionally joined by others who provide them with refreshments. Arshi Sheikh, 28, who brought tea and snacks for the midnight protesters, said, “Our forefathers won freedom from the British because they challenged oppression. If we don’t today, the next generation will hate us.”
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