New Delhi: The Shaheen Bagh protesters are now alleging that Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi has shown no sign of empathy towards them, and also blame MLA Amanatullah Khan for not meeting them after winning the polls in the Okhla constituency by over 71,000 votes.
“We voted Amanatullah Khan to power, we supported him, but now after the polls are over, he is nowhere to be seen. We need the local MLA to support us,” an elderly woman protester told ThePrint at Shaheen Bagh Saturday. The woman did not wish to give her name.
Another protester, who also wanted to remain anonymous, added: “After the elections, even Amanatullah Khan hasn’t come over to talk to us. There is no sign of him.”
The Shaheen Bagh protest — against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens and National Population Register — has been going on for the last 70 days, but CM Kejriwal didn’t visit it ahead of the 8 February Delhi assembly polls. Now, even after winning 62 of Delhi’s 70 seats, Kejriwal’s continued absence has disappointed protesters.
“We understood when Kejriwal didn’t come to meet us during the campaigning and before the poll results, but now we have elected him. He couldn’t find a little time to come and talk to us? We feel extremely marginalised,” said Anjum Khan, part of the group of protesters known as the Shaheen Bagh ‘dadis’ (grandmothers).
“We waited until 16 February for Kejriwal to complete his oath-taking ceremony; we have chosen him with a big majority. He can’t just keep sitting as chief minister; it’s his moral duty to find a solution to our problems,” said another elderly woman, who also wanted to remain anonymous.
“We have almost lost hope in (Union Home Minister) Amit Shah; now it’s Arvind Kejriwal’s time to intervene and find a solution,” this woman added.
Kejriwal had called on Shah last Wednesday after winning the elections, but they had not discussed the Shaheen Bagh issue.
Attempt to change narrative
The protesters are also expressing disappointment with the Supreme Court-appointed mediation panel. They say the narrative has changed from their protest against CAA-NRC-NPR to an issue of road blockade and public inconvenience.
“Everyone knows that Shaheen Bagh was an issue in the Delhi assembly polls, but now it has been reduced to road blockade. Now, the Supreme Court-appointed mediators also don’t want to talk to us about our demands. So why appoint them? Just to get the road cleared?” another Shaheen Bagh ‘dadi’, who did not wish to be named, said.
Mediators Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran held three rounds of talks with the Shaheen Bagh protesters, and on Friday morning, the police barricades placed on the road from Noida to Delhi via Kalindi Kunj were opened twice briefly, before being placed again.
Ameer Jahan, another Shaheen Bagh dadi, who claimed to be one of the protesters who had met Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal on 21 January, said the government has turned a blind eye.
“Our issues against the entire CAA-NRC-NPR are bigger than this road blockade. This SC panel hasn’t talked to us about our demands at all. Now that we have elected Arvind Kejriwal as Delhi’s chief minister, isn’t it his moral obligation to support us and try to get rid of the CAA?” Jahan asked.
“We want him to stand with us like West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stands with anti-CAA protests,” she said, adding that the AAP government must stand up for the people and pass anti-CAA resolutions like Kerala and Rajasthan have done.
Sadaf, a student of Jamia Millia Islamia who is also part of the Shaheen Bagh protest, said the Supreme Court’s appointment of mediators to negotiate only on the road blockade is just an attempt to bring a “change in discourse”.