Roshan Bagh in the old city area of Allahabad, claim residents, never witnessed any mass movement which hogged national headlines, till the on-going mobilisation of women, children and youth against CAA, NPR and NRIC grabbed national attention.
Initiated by a group of mostly Muslim women, the protest at Roshan Bagh has quickly drawn support from other communities. A large posse of policemen watch the proceedings from a distance and keep a vigil, waiting for orders, while slogans rent the air, speeches are delivered, songs are sung and poetry recited.
Police have not been quite inactive though. An FIR has been lodged against more than 50 unidentified protestors, preparing the ground for a possible crackdown. For the moment, it is a wait-and-watch operation by the police.
A steady stream of people, mostly from neighbouring areas but some from the countryside as well, keep streaming in. Shabnam Gautam (26) has come all the way from Ghoorpur in trans Yamuna area, around 35 kms from Allahabad.
“Ruling party members are spreading the false propaganda that only Muslims are behind the stir. This is completely wrong. The truth is that not only Muslims but the Dalits and those from weaker sections of society would also become victims of this draconian law,” she says passionately.
The government’s move is aimed at depriving the minority community of their citizenship and driving them out of the country, she asserts. “Once this is accomplished the government would target Dalits and OBCs and withdraw their reservation which is why we have to stand united along with our Muslim brethren at this hour of crisis,” she explains.
Besides a rag tag marquee providing shelter to protestors from the elements, there is little at Roshan Bagh to suggest enormous amounts of money are being spent on the protest. A few bottles of mineral water were indeed being distributed to the women but there was little to substantiate BJP’s allegation that the Opposition had pumped in a lot of money to sustain the agitation.
General Secretary of All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha (AIKMS) Ashish Mittal said, “We are standing firmly behind our sisters who are braving the cold and raising their voice against the CAA, NPR and NRIC”. His opposition is not confined to citizenship though. He opposes the government’s economic policies and blames it for a conspiracy to invite MNCs and ruin small farmers and entrepreneurs. “Soon everything including Allahabadi guavas will have to be ordered online,” he fumes.
Arshiya Ahmad (25) left a lucrative job to join the movement, she claimed. “Hum yahan aa gaye hain to ab itni jaldi wapas nahi jaayenge jab tak ki is masley ka hal nahi hoga’ (Now that we are here, we are not going to go back in a hurry, not till the issue gets resolved), she says defiantly while holding aloft a placard that read, “Ready to die, not ready to accept CAA and NRC”.
The girl sitting next to her nods in agreement. “When injustice becomes the law, rebellion becomes our duty,” they cry in unision. Their friends from other communities are taking turns to sit with them, they added.
A handful of political leaders like Rajya Sabha MP from Samajwadi Party (SP) Rewati Raman Singh and CPI (M) leader and former MP, Subhashini Ali have made an appearance at Roshan Bagh in solidarity and support.
But the protest is clearly being sustained by educated youth, with a fair understanding of issues and articulate while confronting the media. Sofiya Khan (22) was hopping from one corner to the other, interacting with fraternal groups from the Bhim Sena, AIKMS and others who had dropped in to support the protest. She was also the chosen one to speak to the media.
“Hamein ab Hindustani hone ka saboot dena padeyga kya? Hamarey dada pardada is mitti mein paida hokar khaak mein mil gaye. Ab hamein apni nagrikta saabit karni padeygi?” (Now we have to give proof of our nationality? Our ancestors were born and buried here and now we are being called upon to prove that we are citizens?), she wondered aloud.