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A visitor travels to Delhi for a first person account from Jamia and Shaheen Bagh

While the Government is describing protestors against CAA-NPR and NRIC as misguided, politically motivated gang of anti-nationals, this first person account debunks the stereotype

A visitor travels to Delhi for a first person account from Jamia and Shaheen Bagh

Prem Panicker

An orderly, silent procession of Jamia students, easily a Kilometre and a half long, most with lighted candles, now heading towards Shaheen Bagh, where, already, there are over 3000 people who have turned up in solidarity, and more coming in every minute.

At Shaheen Bagh, almost every conversation begins with “Aapne kuch khaya? Nahin? Kya khayenge? Kyun nahin, aap door se aaye ho hamara saath dene, kuch to kha lijiye...” These from folks who have been sitting out there 24/7 in the coldest December in decades.

You read the news, and wallow in the viciousness of social media, and listen to the bile of studio anchors, until you are equal parts despair and rage. And then you come to Jamia, where outside gate no. 7 a group of students are quietly reading on the pavement. You hand over a bagful of books two good friends have entrusted you with. And you ask, ‘are there specific books you need that I can get for you?’

“Yes, please - easy to read, annotated copies of the Constitution. Books on our history and culture....”

These are the “anti-nationals”.

There is sharp political commentary everywhere you look. Image galleries showcasing iconic moments from the freedom struggle. And then instant “editorials” on an increasingly volatile world.

A million mutinies now? That is Jamia.

A few thousand people are crammed on a stretch of road between gate nos 5 and 7. And a hundred protests are on simultaneously, in crazy, chaotic juxtaposition. One group reading on the pavement to protest the desecration of their library.

Adjacent, another group of about a dozen students gathered in a circle, chanting slogans.

A lady with a megaphone speaks to the inequities of the CAA+NRC; a few dozen gather to listen and when she is done, the assemblage spontaneously turns into a march along the stretch of the road…

Those marchers meet another group marching in the other direction and briefly, both groups meet, mingle, echo each other’s slogans, move on.

Elsewhere, a gent, all on his own, just standing there...

In the midst of this chaos, a small group of students plan a JMI website.

“They lie about us, all the time. And the lies ‘justify’ the violence they let loose. Somewhere, someone has to tell the truth about Jamia, no? There has to be someplace where people can see who we are?”

And, some three kilometres and several light years away, this: the women of Shaheen Bagh patiently listening to speaker after speaker telling them what they are fighting for.

From talking to some of them, I think they know already.

(From the Twitter thread of Prem Panicker, former Managing Editor at Yahoo India)

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