When Delhi got out to protest Citizenship Amendment Act in the middle of a working day

All the protestors were clear: They wanted to send a message across to PM Modi and HM Amit Shah that India was a democracy, dissent was their right and that dictatorship would not be tolerated

When Delhi got out to protest Citizenship Amendment Act in the middle of a working day
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Ashlin Mathew

It was a day of protests in Delhi. There were people resisting in Jamia Nagar, Mandi House, Delhi Gate, Jama Masjid and Jantar Mantar. And at least one of these was impromptu. Even at 6 pm, the crowd showed no signs of thinning at Jantar Mantar. There was anger, resistance and kindness in the air. Realising that people would have been out since morning, there were bananas and biscuits being distributed.

But the day was not expected to turn this way. There was an apprehension of the crowds being split between two protests. The Left parties had called for a protest march in the Capital from Mandi House to Shaheedi Park near Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg on December 19 against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). It was after all the death anniversary of the revolutionary leaders Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla Khan.

Soon, there was another protest announced. Yogendra Yadav’s Swaraj Abhiyan called for another march from Red Fort to Shaheedi Park for the same reason.

The week preceding it, no one knew which protest they would be heading to and most cribbed about lack of unity and a possible thin crowd at both the protests. Then the night before, there was news that the permission has been denied to the protest march from Red Fort to Shaheedi Park.

As soon as word got around of the denial of permission, even more were determined to reach the Red Fort. On a cold winter morning, more than 300 protestors reached there to walk towards Shaheedi Park. As soon as they started to walk, the police began to detain protestors including Yogendra Yadav, lawyer Prashant Bhushan, and activist Umar Khalid. There were 12 buses waiting to take the protestors away. They were taken to areas as far as Alipur, Bawana and Model Town.

Soon news was put out that all Metro stations near both ITO and Mandi House were closed down. Then came the news that internet and SMS in the area was also shut down on the orders from the government. This led to even more deciding to turn up. Several took half-day leave from work and several others decided to help in the co-ordination.

When Delhi got out to protest Citizenship Amendment Act in the middle of a working day

All those who had not been detained at Delhi Gate moved towards Mandi House, where at least 1,000 people had gathered. The people began to detain people who were simply standing. They detained professors, senior leaders including Sitaram Yechury, Brinda Karat, D Raja and Annie Raja. A few youngsters from Mandi House were taken to Mandir Marg police station.

With this, they hoped that the protestors would disperse. That was definitely not on the minds of those assembled. Everyone who was walking was directed towards Parliament Street through Janpath. En route, even more people began to join in the protest. People from all walks of life were joining in.

As soon as the protest reached Jantar Mantar to turn to Parliament Street, the deployed Rapid Action Force and Delhi Police directed people to move towards the usual protest site at Jantar Mantar. Shouting slogans and distributing food, people marched in.

When the police realised that the protestors were not going to stop coming, several of those detained at Mandir Marg were released, then those at Bawana and Alipur were let go with the refrain that they should avoid going to Jantar Mantar.

Soon enough, CPI(M) leaders Sitaram Yechury and Brida Karat were released, and they turned up at Jantar Mantar to a rousing crowd of more than 4,000 persons. Author Arundhati Roy and filmmaker Sanjay Kak came to Jantar Mantar to show solidarity. Even until 6 pm, the crowds showed no signs of thinning.

All the protestors were clear with what they wanted. They were demanding the withdrawal of Citizenship Amendment Act and the non-implementation of the National Register of citizens too. They wanted to send the message across to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah that India was a democracy, dissent was their right and that dictatorship would not be tolerated.

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