It had rained the other night in Delhi. The street art on Delhi’s Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch had faded; hundreds of paper boats–arranged in the shape of a heart and carrying the nazm Hum Dekhenge by Faiz Ahmed Faiz–were in a bad shape. But the message is still loud and clear. The protest art is serving its purpose well.
As the sit-in at one of the prominent anti-CAA protest sites continues in the capital, the different kinds of artworks and installations continue to send out the message of resistance. The newly built 40-feet high iron structure carved in the shape of India’s map with “Hum Bharat ke log CAA-NPR-NRC nahi maante (We the people of India reject CAA-NPR-NRC), or a mini replica of India gate with the names of people who have lost their lives in violence at different anti-CAA protest sites are prime examples.
“It is our answer to the Modi-led government that claims that the entire country supports them. We created the entire map of India that says we reject your idea,” one of the artists told indianexpress.com. The artists also categorically denied being identified anything but as ‘The People of Shaheen Bagh’.
Apart from the structures, an entire street adjacent to the main protest spot is currently serving as an open-air gallery for artists. Graffiti reading ‘Humanity unite for freedom’, ‘Bol ke lab azad hai tere’ or ‘We won’t hide our identity’ are sending out a message. An overbridge near the protest site has also been turned into a canvas with “freedom” and “unity” painted on the steps.
‘Collective thought process’
The constantly updated artworks at the protest site are a collective effort of several artists and students that have come together from Delhi University, Jamia University, Kolkata’s Jadavpur University and Hyderabad Central University.
“A lot of people come to us with ideas, we sit down together with them and create a roadmap of what can be done. Several times we don’t see those people ever again. The artworks here are a collective thought process of many,” another artist said.
When asked how the material or stationery required is collected, the artists said it is usually arranged by the people coming at the protests and people living nearby. “A lot of times, people have ideas but not material. Sometimes there aren’t enough brushes, paints or cardboard. But in the end, someone or the other helps us or we work with whatever is available to us,” he added.
Walls that speak
In the national capital, Shaheen Bagh is not the only place that is currently witnessing the massive influx of protest art. Just barely two kilometres away, outside the Jamia Millia University, another ground zero for protest is home to verses of Faiz, Pash, Habib Jalib and Ramdhari Singh Dinkar on its wall.
“We are using the work of our revolutionary poets in the form of typography art and putting them on the walls around Jamia. We hope the verses inspire people to continue with the protest,” said Simeen Anjum, a second-year finance student at the university.
The focus of artists is not only poets but also revolutionary freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Dalit student Rohith Vemula and also JNU union president Aishe Ghosh, who was injured during a mob attack at the campus. “It is very important that a creative form of protest should emerge because art is more likely to stay with you. It also communicates with people in a very different way,” Anjum said, adding that the walls being painted today speak louder than the slogans.
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