New Delhi: Since the past five days, thousands of people, mainly women, from all communities are participating in a sit-in protest from dusk to dawn in Kanpur’s Mohammad Ali Park in the freezing cold. They are demanding the revoking of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The protest demonstrations, reminiscent of the ones going on in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, as also in Shanti Bagh in Bihar’s Gaya, are unique for the city. During the day, the protesters sing revolutionary songs, such as Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s, such as 'Hum Dekhenge'.
Despite Kanpur recently witnessing alleged police brutality leading to three deaths, the protesters in Mohammad Ali Park sing revolutionary songs, recite poems and listen to speeches for a common cause – saving the Constitution -- but has hardly drawn any media attention so far.
“I have been born and brought up in Kanpur, got married here, lived up with my husband for more than 30 years and have many beautiful memories, but now the government is asking me to prove my citizenship, which is not only unconstitutional but is also against the basic fundamental rights of citizens. The way Shaheen Bagh has become the face of the Delhi protest because of the nature of the groups that have come together, we are also united and will fight till the draconian law is rolled back," said Yasmeen, a mother of three, who lost her husband a few years ago.
Yasmeen told Newsclick that is was the idea of a plural India that she and her late husband grew up with that she is fighting for “despite all odds". “They (Modi government) passed the triple talaq law without taking Muslim women into confidence, Babri Masjid was given away despite showing 500-year-old documents, but preferred to kept our mouths shut, but we will not stand for this division," she said.
Yasmeen is not alone among the regular protesters at this sit-in. = There are several others like Naba Zameer, Ariba, Sanjeeda, Mehwish, Farheen, Shanti, Salma, Divya and Aarti, who have been spending hours and raising their voices against CAA-NRC.
Another protester, Shanti, who travels 3 km to reach the protest site every day, told Newsclick: "This protest is not about Muslims versus Hindus, as the mainstream media is trying to portray with the help of government. It is a question of our existence. The government is using all its weapons to scare us, but we are resilient. We won't go back. The fight will go on till CAA is rolled back."
When questioned on the perception that only Muslims are taking part in this protest, Shanti said, "It is absolutely unfair to say that. Like me, hundreds of Hindus, Sikhs and Christians also joining and witnessing the protest."
Chanting slogans of “Hum leke Rahenge Azaadi (We will take our freedom)”, “Awaaz Do Hum Ek Hain (We are one)”, Ladenge Jeetenge (We Shall Fight, We Shall Win), Hindustan Zindabad (Long live India), etc, crowds throng to the venue, some holding the tricolour in their hands.
Iftikhar Ahmed, one of the organisers of the sit-in protest, worried that this protest was not drawing media attention despite entering the third day, said: "Unlike Delhi, we do not have prominent faces who can come here and address the people, yet people are concerned about saving the Constitution.”
Ahmed said the participation of women in the sit-in protest was more than expected.
"Protests in Shaheen Bagh manage to get the international coverage while Mohammad Ali Park has hardly made news, except in social media platforms," an organiser told this reportere.
It may be noted that during the ongoing protest against CAA-NRC, Uttar Pradesh witnessed violent protests in which 19 people were killed, most of them due to alleged police firing. Of these, three deaths were in Kanpur.
"Those killed in Kanpur were not part of any protest unlike in Western Uttar Pradesh. The families of the deceased -- Mohammad Saif (25), Mohammad Raees (30) and Mohammad Aftab (22)-- are very poor. After that, some innocent persons have been named in the FIRs and those arrested are also poor people, earning their livelihood by selling vegetables and doing odd jobs" said Amit, who was in Mohammad Ali Park.