At the site of the Shaheen Bagh sit-in on the Kalindi Kunj road to Noida, all signs of the over 100 days protest are gone. Shops on the road are buzzing once again, the tent sheltering the protesting women has disappeared along with most of the artwork and sculptures, including the 40-foot iron map of India. All that remain are some slogans graffitied on a nearby foot-overbridge — Inquilab zindabad, No CAA, No NRC.
“Nobody here talks about the protest or is willing to talk about it anymore. They’re scared,” said Bilkis Bano, the 82-year old ‘Dadi of Shaheen Bagh’.
On Wednesday, in reference to the Shaheen Bagh protest, a Supreme Court bench of Justices S K Kaul, Krishna Murari and Hrishikesh Roy stated, “Public places cannot be occupied indefinitely. Dissent and democracy go hand in hand but protests must be carried out in designated area… Such kind of occupation of public place for protests is not acceptable.”
Back in Shaheen Bagh, many of those who were an active part of the sit-in said the protest had taken that form in an organic manner. “There were so many people part of it who had always been known as housewives before that, who were protesting in their own area, in Shaheen Bagh… When the Supreme Court interlocutors (Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran) had come there, it was very positive and many thought it would be best to meet at a middle ground. However, the movement and the protest had grown too large, in a way that it becomes difficult to tell people what to do,” said Shaheen Kausar, one of the participants of the sit-in.
But she is quick to state that it was the people of the area who had ensured the protest remained peaceful. “There were attempts from all quarters to provoke people, but the people here were sensible and did not allow the slightest bit of violence. And the fact remains that at the end, no one from the government engaged with the protesters even after everything,” she said.
Everyone said they respect the Supreme Court’s observations. However, social activist Bahadur Abbas Naqvi, a resident of Shaheen Bagh, said, “As for shifting the protest to an alternate designated site, what site had we been given? There were lakhs of people protesting, while Jantar Mantar has a capacity for 1,000 and Ramleela Maidan for 25,000. If there can be no alternative, can people’s constitutional right to protest be taken away?”
The form of sit-in protest, with women taking the lead, had spread from Shaheen Bagh to over 12 locations in Delhi itself and to other cities such as Mumbai, Allahabad, Lucknow, Kolkata, Gaya and Kota.
On the future of anti-CAA and NRC protests against the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s observations, Bilkis said, “The hope is that in the future, we won’t have to go out on the roads and that the government engages and talks to us.”
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