New Delhi: Inspired by the resilient women of New Delhi's Shaheen Bagh,whose month-long resistance against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) is making waves, large groups of women began a sit-in protests in Uttar Pradesh's Prayagraj, formerly known as Allahabad, at Mansoor Ali Park of Roshan Bagh in the older part of the city on Sunday afternoon.
Over a thousand people, mainly women, sat late-night despite a cold wave sweeping across North India. They were also joined by student leaders and representatives from political parties, such as Congress and Samajwadi Party (SP).
"When men raise voices for their rights, the police puts them behind bars and prosecutes them, so we women have been forced to agitate to save our Constitution. If resilient women of New Delhi's Shaheen Bagh, Kanpur, Gaya in Bihar can sit 24X7 in icy winds, why can’t we?" Sara Ahmed, one of the key organisers of the protest told NewsClick.
The protesters are not just Muslims. People from all age groups and religions are participating in the sit-in, mainly by women. "All the people are opposing the unconstitutional CAA and NRC, and we will not leave this place until CAA is repealed by the Modi government," Sara added.
Another organizer, Tarannum Khan, told NewsClick, "At a time when women are constantly struggling in many places and fighting the government in this cold, how can we sit peacefully in Allahabad? It is a fight for our identity."
For some, this is a fight to secure their children’s future. For others, it is a struggle for “peace” and protecting the country’s secular and democratic ethos.
"Our children’s future is at risk. We couldn’t sit at home, pretending everything’s fine. Laws are being framed to divide us in our own country. Women aged 80 years old and young children are all sitting in protest today. When we started the protest, there were only 40-45 women, but by night, the number had crossed thousand. Our protest is indefinite, and we will stand firmly against the government's arbitrariness," said a 50-year-old homemaker, asking not to be named.
Meanhwile, City SP Brijesh Kumar Srivastava appealed the protesters to call off the protest. He told local media, "Constant appeals are being made to the protesters to end the agitation. As of now, peaceful protest is going on here, along with the police, PAC has also been deployed as a precautionary at the park. We are constantly trying to get the women to end the protest and return to their homes."
Former Allahabad University Students' Union (AUSU) president, Richa Singh, who was also present at the protest site on Sunday, told NewsClick: "This time facing Modi government are not Muslims and Hindus but the women of this country. The CAA-NRC is not just anti-Hindu-Muslim, it is unconstitutional. The Constitution does not allow anyone to divide people on the basis of their religion. In a country where the names and addresses of people are wrongly written on voter ID and Aadhaar cards, the intention behind CAA raises several questions."
Singh said: "At a time when the government should be talkind about the deteriorating economy, unemployment, inflation and safety of girls, students are being beaten inside universities, they are not safe even in libraries. The government is trying to confuse the common man in the CAA, NRC and NPR."
In Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur, sit-in protests in Mohammad Ali Park have been going on since January 7. The protest site was dotted with various kinds of placards and banners with the revolutionary song 'Hum Dekhenge', written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
Similarly, Shanti Bagh in Bihar’s Gaya has also turned into a mini Shaheen Bagh where people from Hindu, Sikh and Muslims communities, mainly women and students, have been gathering 24×7 since December 29.
Meanwhile, the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government has become the first state to begin the process for implementation of CAA, even as intense protests continue across the state.
According to a report in Times of India, the UP government has already sent a list of refugees, mainly Hindus, across 19 districts, to the Centre
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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 firing.