Lucknow: Amid the lockdown announced by the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Sunday due to the COVID-19 threat, women protesting at the iconic Ghanta Ghar in Lucknow have temporarily called off their protest the next day. The women were part of a sit-in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the proposed National Registry of Citizens (NRC) which had been on for two months at Hussainabad.
The women protesters said they were suspending their protest “temporarily” in view of the coronavirus scare, but would return to the site as soon as the situation normalises.
The women left behind their “dupattas” and their cots at the protest site as a mark of their continuing protest. They also requested the district administration to allow status quo at the protest site.
Speaking to NewsClick, Azra, a key organiser of the protest said that it was a “symbolic call off as we left all our stuff including dupattas, slippers, blankets, bedsheets, tarpaulin and trunks at the protest site. We did this so that the district administration cannot touch our things unnecessarily,” she added. Azra said that they had written an application to the Police Commissioner of Lucknow and the Circle Officer (CO) of Lucknow Chowk. “They assured us that they will take care of our things and that our belongings will not be touched,” she said.
The women protesters said that the Lucknow district administration told them to come back to the protest site once the lockdown ends.
The decision to call off the protest, which began on January 17, apparently came after 'Sangharshil Mahila' from the city appealed to the protesters and asked them to call off the protest in public interest.
On Sunday, UP CM Yogi Adityanath announced a lockdown in 16 districts of the state with the increasing number of confirmed coronavirus cases across India. The lockdown will remain in place from Monday (March 23) to Wednesday (March 25), he specified.
Districts where the lockdown has been enforced in the first phase are Lucknow, Agra, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Ghaziabad, Varanasi, Allahabad, Kanpur, Aligarh, Moradabad, Lakhimpur Kheiri, Bareilly, Azamgarh, Meerut, Gorakhpur, Pilibhit and Saharanpur.
Officials of the police and district administration have been patrolling these districts since Sunday morning.
Kahkasha, another protester, told NewsClick that they have been supportive due to the lockdown but that they government should keep their end of the bargain. “We have been assured by the Circle Officer that they will take care of our belongings. It is why we are also cooperating with the adminstration,” she said, mentioning that once the lockdown ended, they will continue with the protest in more numbers.
The women also observed ‘Janta Curfew’ at Ghanta Ghar. Fatima said that the older women and children had already been disallowed from the site, with no protester allowed to sit-in for more than thirty minutes. “We distributed masks, hand sanitisers and asked women to not talk and make this a symbolic protest,” she explained.
The protest at the clock tower in Lucknow began on January 17 and repeated attempts made by the police to force the protesters out have failed. The police has lathi-charged them several times.
In such an instance on March 19, 2020, five women protesters were injured when the police hit them. They were later admitted to hospital and three were critical.