Kolkata: A group of women gathered at the Park Circus Maidan on January 7 has announced that they would be staging a sit-in at the spot until the government repeals the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and strikes off the possibility of compiling National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
As the news spread, more men and women have joined the group at the protest site.
Speaking to eNewsroom, Azmat Jameel, a social worker, who was among the first few to start the sit-in, said, “I am here since 1 pm. Inspired by the women of Shaheen Bagh, we had been contemplating starting a sit-in. The attack on women at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) shook me and I decided, that the sit-in had to be organised in Kolkata now. Thus, we walked in and have been sitting here since long.”
When asked about the organisers of this protest, she answered: “We, the people of India. Who else? This sit-in is a public demonstration and has no political affiliation. Strangely enough, NRC, CAA and NPR have woken up the sleeping leaders in us. So, like many others, it’s a leaderless and bannerless protest.”
A similar answer was given to police officers, who were trying to convince the crowd to disperse after some time, only to come back the next day. However, the protesters were in no mood to leave the spot. “We are doing it here with the sole intention of not disrupting public life. No traffic will be disrupted if we sit here. It’s a peaceful demonstration. The police shouldn’t object to it. We have the right to express dissent,” said Shafqat Rahim, an LLM student studying Constitutional Law and Human Rights. She told eNewsroom, “We had got an SOS from the participants; so, we rushed from other rallies to this spot to make sure that the police don’t force them to evacuate the spot.”
She added, “They [the police] told us that this is not Shaheen Bag nor is the state hostile to protests. Then, what’s the need for an indefinite sit-in? To that, all that I have to say is that no doubt the government has been supportive of the ant-NRC movement, but that doesn’t negate the point that we are all Indians and that Delhi and UP are part of India. We are doing it here to mark a protest against atrocities being inflicted on anti-NRC/CAA/NPR protesters in BJP-ruled states.”
Like Shafqat, a huge number of students from various universities and colleges in Kolkata have assembled at the spot within a few hours of receiving the SOS message. “We are here to show solidarity with those protesting here. Today, we all are united as citizens. We belong to no university, but the University of Humanity,” said Arup Biswas, one of the students who had assembled at Park Circus.
The participants, who didn’t want to break any rules, have written a letter seeking permission for the sit-in to the concerned officials and then have continued their protest throughout the night.