The protest site at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi was cleared on Tuesday morning after 101 days amid the nationwide lockdown over coronavirus pandemic. The protest against the new citizenship law was spearheaded by women and had inspired similar demonstrations across the country.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill, passed in Parliament on December 11, triggered protests across the country including Delhi. On the evening of December 15, Delhi Police and the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) entered the Jamia Millia Islamia campus, ostensibly in pursuit of miscreants who had allegedly set buses on fire in the vicinity of the university during the anti-CAA protests. The police lobbed teargas shells inside the campus, and dragged students out of the library and the mosque, and assaulted them.
Here’s a brief timeline of the protest
December 15: Protesters gathered at the Shaheen Bagh road to oppose the Citizenship Amendment Act, National Register of Citizen (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR), which they call “anti-Muslim”. The protesters also opposed the Delhi Police action against students of Jamia Millia Islamia.
The protest began on a key stretch —Kalindi Kunj Road that links the densely populated Shaheen Bagh with the satellite township of Noida.
December 31: Shaheen Bagh rang in 2020 singing the national anthem. As the clock struck 12, the protesting crowd burst into a cheer to greet the fellow protesters the new year, and moments later broke into the national anthem in unison which was followed by the slogan “Inquilab Zindabad”.
January 2020: A petition was filed in the Delhi High Court by social activist-advocate Amit Sahni seeking directions to the Delhi Police chief and area DCPs to withdraw the closure of the stretch and the Okhla underpass.
Refusing to pass any specific direction, a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar asked police to “react, in accordance with law, rules and government policies applicable to the facts of the present case”. It directed the police to act as per the “ground reality” and their “wisdom”.
The petitioner has approached the Supreme Court.
January 28: West Delhi BJP MP Pravesh Verma sparked a controversy after he said if the anti-CAA and NRC protests at Shaheen Bagh continued, Delhi will face a “Kashmir-like situation”. Verma also said protesters at Shaheen Bagh “can enter homes and rape our sisters and daughters”. He had earlier said that no one will be found at the protest site in Shaheen Bagh if BJP is voted to power in Delhi.
January 29: A four-month-old infant whose parents had been protesting at Shaheen Bagh died, allegedly due to exposure to the cold, on the night of January 29. The child’s mother Nazia claimed the new citizenship law was the reason for her child’s death. “I would bring him to the protest to fight for the future. He was only a witness in the fight; he played with his siblings.”
February 2: Two days after a 17-year-old shot at a student of Jamia Millia Islamia during a protest against the new citizenship law, a man fired at least two shots about 50 metres from the stage at the Shaheen Bagh protest. No one was injured in the firing. In videos shot by eyewitnesses, the shooter identified as Kapil can be heard saying “Jai Shri Ram” and “hamaare desh mein kisi ki nahi chalegi, sirf Hinduon ki chalegi (No one except Hindus will have their way in our country)”. He also said “ours is a Hindu rashtravaadi desh”, even as people in the area called him an “aatankwadi (terrorist)”.
February 3: A plea is filed in the Supreme Court seeking the removal of Shaheen Bagh protestors, saying they are causing hardship to people by blocking arterial road connecting Delhi to Noida. The plea filed in the top court sought laying down of comprehensive and exhaustive guidelines relating to outright restrictions for holding protests or agitations leading to obstruction of a public place.
It said the agitation at Shaheen Bagh is undoubtedly within the Constitutional parameter but the whole protest has lost its legality when the protections enshrined under the Constitution are “blatantly and brazenly flouted and violated for the ulterior purpose”.
February 4: BJP leader Anurag Thakur said that the protesters at Shaheen Bagh will be removed once BJP comes to power in Delhi. Thakur had earlier encouraged a crowd at a BJP election rally to chant “desh ke gaddaron ko goli maaro saalon ko”.
February 18: Acknowledging that people have a fundamental right to protest, the Supreme Court appointed two senior advocate Sanjay Hedge and advocate Sadhana Ramachandran as interlocutors with the mandate to persuade anti-CAA protesters at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi to end their blockade of a public road.
February 24: Interlocutors who held three rounds of talks with the protesters submitted their report in a “sealed cover” to the Supreme Court. The report had neither been taken on record by the bench nor made available to any of the lawyers. When a petitioner sought a copy of the report, the bench said that they were keeping it confidential for the time being, as “the purpose of an interlocutor is different. their report is only for our record”.
March 16: In its fight against coronavirus, the Delhi government announced that any gathering – religious, family, social, political or cultural – of over 50 people will not be allowed. When asked if the ban will have the Shaheen Bagh protests under its ambit, Kejriwal said: “It will be applicable for everyone, be it protest or any other gathering.”
March 17: Shaheen Bagh volunteers said it was decided that the protesters will comply with the CM’s order of limiting the gathering at 50. However, by the evening, there were hundreds of protesters at the site, and a volunteer said the changes will be implemented by evening. They had also said that grandmothers and children would no longer be allowed at the site and each protester would sit at least one metre away from the other protesters. Face masks and sanitisers were also made available.
The Delhi Police had held a meeting with a few Shaheen Bagh protesters and Resident Welfare Association (RWA) members of Shaheen Bagh and Abul Fazal Enclave in a bid to convince the group to end the protests.
March 22: On Sunday, when the country was observing Janata curfew, petrol bombs were hurled by unidentified persons at the Shaheen Bagh protest site. While protesters at Shaheen Bagh blamed ‘outsiders’ for the incident, police sources said they are probing the possibility of an internal feud between protesters over calling off the protest that eventually escalated.
March 24: The Shaheen Bagh site was cleared on Tuesday morning. Deputy Commissioner of Police (southeast) R P Meena said people at the protest venue in Shaheen Bagh were requested to vacate the site as lockdown has been imposed due to coronavirus outbreak. However, when they refused action was taken and they were vacated, the official said, reported news agency PTI. Nine people, including six women, have been detained, said JCP Southern Range, Devesh Srivastava. Section 144 is in place in Delhi after the Arvind Kejriwal-led government announced a lockdown as a precautionary measure against coronavirus. Before this, a protest outside Jamia had been called off last week.
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