Sitting on stage, they discuss traffic snarls, a longer route children have to take to school, and several other requests, the main one being opening up a part of the blocked stretch for commuters. But a month into their sit-in at Shaheen Bagh, women protesters have decided to stay put.
A day after residents and traders from Sarita Vihar took out a protest march against the sit-in, asking police to remove protesters, Preamble readings and songs are punctuated by discussions around the traffic situation.
The protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), led by women, started a month ago. The stretch has been shut since then, throwing traffic out of gear in South East Delhi and on the roads leading to and from Noida. Protesters have also seen a surge of support with several thousand people, including Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, gathering at the site Sunday.
On Monday, a police officer appealed to protesters to vacate one side of the stretch, citing traffic woes and problems faced by parents who have to take a longer route to drop their kids to school. The request was dismissed.
“We want the government to at least talk to us. We have been sitting here for a month but there has been no word from our Prime Minister and Home Minister. Ek bhi aurat hatne ko taiyaar nahi hai yahan se (Not even a single woman is ready to leave),” said Shifana Ajmal, a resident of Shaheen Bagh and one of the organisers of the sit-in.
The area has around 150 factory outlets of shoes and clothing, all of which have been shut for a month. “We have held meetings with police and spoken to protesters. We can’t openly complain against them since we have to live here. The staff in our showrooms are suffering because there is no sale,” said a trader. Another trader, who owns a branded clothes showroom, said most of the winter inventory had to be returned.
A few women acknowledge the traffic situation. “We will go with the decision the majority takes… Schools have reopened now and children might face problems,” said Shaheen Parveen, a protester.