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HomeOpinionThe people’s occupation of Shaheen Bagh speaks truth to power

The people’s occupation of Shaheen Bagh speaks truth to power

Critics and cynics alike should take note: something iconic and historic is taking place at Shaheen Bagh.

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When the police attacked Jamia Millia Islamia students mid-December, ransacking the university’s library and dispensing instant justice with lathis on innocent unarmed students who had nothing to do with the burning of a bus, the people of Delhi’s Jamia Nagar wanted to go on a protest. Some local leaders said it wasn’t a wise idea in such a volatile situation.

The people were angry. They decided to sit and protest at a ground in the neighbourhood, except there was no one to witness their protest. They were sitting and screaming their lungs out in the interiors of a Muslim ‘ghetto’. They might as well be sitting at home. It would get over in a few hours, some thought.

It’s been 35 days and the occupation of Shaheen Bagh has become the prime metaphor of a national movement against the Narendra Modi government’s tinkering with India’s citizenship laws that threaten to make many Indian Muslims stateless.

The women of Shaheen Bagh screamed so loudly that the entire country heard their voice. It is electrifying to be at Shaheen Bagh. It is inspiring. It is soul-stirring. It is life re-affirming. If you haven’t yet been to Shaheen Bagh, you are missing out on being witness to history.

Shaheen Bagh, New Delhi | Shivam Vij | ThePrint

Also read: Who represents India’s Muslims? Thanks to CAA protests, we now know the answer

The falconer cannot hear the falcon

Hindustan ek bagh hai aur hum usse Shaheen hai,” says a hand-made poster on the background of the stage. India is a garden and we are its Shaheen. Bird watchers will tell you that Shaheen is a falcon; connoisseurs of Urdu poetry will tell you the bird has been eulogised aplenty in shayaris.

Shaheen the falcon is native to South Asia and is a non-migratory bird. It belongs to this land and it stays here — exactly what Indian Muslims are saying in response to the threat of being thrown into detention camps or the Bay of Bengal after being labelled ‘infiltrators’.

“Shaheen Bagh is no longer Shaheen Bagh,” came a voice from the stage last evening. “It is Hindustan.”

If you strike up conversations with strangers at Shaheen Bagh, you will find that many have come from different parts of the country just to be a part of this moment and this movement. Like Umar from Darbhanga in Bihar, who quit his job in Punjab just to come and be at Shaheen Bagh. It means the world to this young man to just be among this sea of humanity, waves of them coming in and going out. That sick feeling of being alone and helpless in the face of a legal assault that threatens this young man’s future… Shaheen Bagh is his medicine. It’s saving him from giving in to the unrelenting January cold.

Umar at Shaheen Bagh | Shivam Vij | ThePrint
Umar at Shaheen Bagh | Shivam Vij | ThePrint

Shaheen Bagh is important to the people visiting it, and to countless others across the world who may not be able to mark their presence there but take hope from it nonetheless. And no, they are not all Muslim. People of all religions, castes, classes are visiting. It’s not just about saving Indian Muslims. It’s about saving India.

It is easy to be cynical about Shaheen Bagh. What will it achieve? Hasn’t it become a cool fad? Isn’t it pointless? For them the first answer is catharsis. Shaheen Bagh is for those who feel choked and disenfranchised in the world’s largest democracy and want to go for a breath of fresh, polluted Delhi air. Do not belittle their need for catharsis.

Also read: Shaheen Bagh, Jamia, JNU protests show Indian women are far better leaders than we admit

The Shaheen Bagh Satyagraha

There are many more reasons why Shaheen Bagh matters. When the protests began as the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed on 11 December, many wondered how long they might last. Speaker after speaker announces from the Shaheen Bagh stage: “We are not moving until the law is withdrawn.”

For those who think the powerful Modi government will never withdraw the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA, those who have no hope from an increasingly executive-minded Supreme Court, they should think of the Champaran Satyagraha. Mahatma Gandhi said he’ll go there for just two days. People thought it was ridiculous to imagine the British indigo planters could be made to leave Champaran. Gandhi stayed on for six months and left Champaran only after the indigo planters did.

The citizenship protests were initially in the form of marches and gatherings, and those can be hard to do day after day. Shaheen Bagh is an occupation, just like Mahatma Gandhi’s refusal to leave Champaran, plodding guilty before a magistrate and expressing willingness to be jailed. Shaheen Bagh is a satyagraha, and those who don’t see it as one do themselves a disservice.

‘Study and struggle’ says a poster at Shaheen Bagh | Shivam Vij | ThePrint

Those who think a mighty regime cannot be made to hear the people’s voice should note that Shaheen Bagh is inspiring many more Shaheen Baghs to come up: in Patna, in Gaya, in Pune, in Kolkata, in Jaipur, in Raipur, in Bhopal, in Prayagraj/Allahabad, and within Delhi in Seelampur and Turkman Gate.

As the slogan goes: Jamia ki ladkiyon ne raasta dikhaya hai. The Jamia women have shown the way.

The women-led occupation of public spaces makes it difficult for a regime even as unfeeling as this one to portray the protesters as violent jihadis sensually marauding through the cities and menacing peace-loving Hindus. Shaheen Bagh is making it difficult even for the most bloodthirsty fascist to not see humanity before religion: two eyes, two ears, one nose.

Also read: Will help ease traffic but won’t move, says Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh after HC order to police

Freedom song

Sanghiyon se jhanda cheen liya,” says an old friend I bump into at Shaheen Bagh. We’ve reclaimed the Tricolour from the ‘Sanghis’. The national flag is everywhere in Shaheen Bagh. Everyone’s draped in the tiranga. The women in hijab and burqa are all too aware that they are demonised and dehumanised in the name of feminism. But they add tiranga colours to their clothes and faces, hold it in their hands and scream out nationalist slogans like everyone else.

Now if Narendra Modi says again the protesters can be identified by their clothes, the people of Shaheen Bagh will show him the tiranga they have draped themselves in. If clothes are a marker of identity, meet your fellow Indians at Shaheen Bagh.

They want you to know that, as a poster said, their clothes don’t come in the way of them having an opinion about whether they should be put in detention camps.

Shaheen Bagh, New Delhi | Shivam Vij | ThePrint

The non-stop active stage and the women sitting in front of it is just the tip of the iceberg. The sea of people stretches far ahead, beyond the line of sight. Once you leave the tent, you see a mela. Groups of people and stalls in various directions, doing their own thing, shouting their own slogans. There’s a reading tent where you are urged to “study and struggle”, there’s a makeshift detention camp where you can prepare for what’s coming ahead, and there are posters and slogans all over the foot-over bridge that now looks like installation art.

‘Detention camp’ at Shaheen Bagh | Shivam Vij | ThePrint

Also read: It’s clear now – the real fight of Modi govt’s supporters is against women

Brave soldiers of the Constitution

Visit Shaheen Bagh for the protest art maybe: my favourite is a sketch of B.R. Ambedkar pulling Amit Shah’s ears to teach him Equality Before Law. Or visit it for the music and books, maybe to get hold of an Ambedkar mask. Or just to soak it in and reflect on the times we live in. Some posters will help you do that. “Will you really be happy in Hindu Rashtra?” asks one.

The people of Shaheen Bagh are up against a lot. Their courage is humbling. They know the police could come and use force against them. They know they might have to soon brave lathis and tear gas, if not pellets and bullets. All it will take is to send a few ABVP goons, turn this peaceful protest violent, and then use violence as an excuse for police action.

The brave women of Shaheen Bagh have so far been winning easily against the might of the state and the insensitivity of a devious regime. They have also been winning a much tougher battle: that of truth against the world’s largest fake news factory.

A poster at Shaheen Bagh | Shivam Vij | ThePrint

This BJP fake news factory is a hydra-headed monster, from Channel ‘R’ to anonymous WhatsApp warriors. On a daily basis, the BJP fake news factory spreads poisonous lies against Shaheen Bagh. One day they are accused of invoking Jinnah and next day of abusing Kashmiri Pandits. And on a daily basis, Shaheen Bagh wins this battle, countering every lie with gusto. When called Islamists, they hold a multi-faith prayer. When blamed for what Pakistan-backed militants did in the Kashmir Valley in 1989, they devote a day expressing solidarity with Kashmiri Pandits.

The electoral opposition could learn from the women of Shaheen Bagh on how to counter the Modi-Shah assault on democracy. But they shouldn’t visit Shaheen Bagh just yet: the people are very clear, no politicians please. The pathetic lawyers and intellectuals of the Congress party who are busy legitimising the CAA for the BJP shouldn’t even dream of visiting Shaheen Bagh. They should stay put with their single malts. They don’t deserve to be among the masses anymore. They don’t know what people power is.

Views are personal.

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  1. Disenfranchise the Muslim population from 2020-2024. From 2024-2029, sterilize the whole Muslim population the way China sterilizes Muslims in Xinjiang. Then, by 2100 the cancer of Islam will be exterminated from India’s soil. India will be Muslim free by 2100.

    There are efficient techniques (injection of drugs) that can be used to sterilize 100 million Muslim men.

  2. Why it required to omit one religion from Eligibility in CAA. Is it not anti construction all hence anti India.

  3. new fertile ground for next generation of politicians. Shaheen is competing with JNU for giving dynamic politicians for in next decade

  4. Unfortunately people of our country the show the same spirit of present protests against nightmare De Mo preclosure breach of trust by PM late unpredictable night decision /announcements. Cascading effects of De Mo leads to economic slowdown /downturn and loss of millions of jobs in realty sector alone.

  5. What is happening in Delhi or some other parts of country against CAA is not Satyagarha but anarchy. Some paid agents of international Mafia, who have been looting us since independence under Congress and particularly after the entry of Sonia into India under some conspiracy with marriage into Nehru family. The subsequent incidents and tragedies in the family point towards this. And with the rise of Modi and BJP, this Mafia is feeling the punch. Now they have all forgotten the EVM hacking, Demonetisation, Rafale and JK bifurcation. They are giving their total energy to anti-CAA propaganda in the hope of attracting the attention of international community, particularly the Islamic ones. But they forget that the whole world is fed up with the immigrants from Muslim countries and all want to curtail the menace of rising Muslim population in their respective countries.

  6. I wonder who has been paying the wages to these protestors over last five or six weeks? Are they fools to forget their daily bread and sit in cold? It is similar to stone pelters being paid wages by Pakistan through Huriyat leaders.

    • I believe the same guys, who were paying to gandhi, bhagat singh and other similar fighters at that time. 🙂

  7. Satyagraha!!! Does author or these misguided people even know what it stands for?
    NRC is not even drafted. CAA is about giving citizenship and not taking away. How is it hurting these protesters? Instead writing crap article glorifying misguided people, why not spend time and educate these people.?
    In democracy, everyone has right to voice their opinion. What I have observed is left media is continuously fueling misguiding people.
    On February 8th I predict this “Satyagrah’ will disappear. We will not hear about it.

  8. How long can it hold on protest,law will not be taken back.these people seems have no proper document of being indian govt should use dna sampling to identify bangladeshi intruder so that people fears get relief.

  9. Live Long Delhi,
    Really, INDIANS ! U R Proving again and again that (DELHI) you are the heart on INDIA.
    We all INDIANS R WITH U.
    Now, New Strategy to be enforced.
    1) CHALO & MILO @ DELHI.

  10. This is a financed scheme. You all will know when they will miraculously disappear after the Delhi elections, which is when the funding will stop.
    Mr. Vij, your facts are incorrect.The Jamia riot and the occupation of Shaheen Bagh were part of the same plan, happened on the same day, and probably at the same hour.The scorching of buses near Jamia and the barricading of the highway at Shaheen Bagh happened together.

  11. This is not a peaceful protest since people in nearby localities are being inconvenienced due to heavy traffic jams. Government must immediately invoke National Security Act and arrest/disperse the crowd. Police must be given unlimited authority to open fire at the protestors in order to subdue muslim aggression. To further frustrate the protestors, government must encourage people in Assam’s detention camps to convert to Hinduism and get citizenship under CAA.

  12. Very True. The article speaks truth.
    The organisers must sit and think. What achieved and what lost ?? By Shaheen Bagh movement.
    I personally feel what they achieved is much larger than what lost in these days. It’s A very long movement by women and must be on records of The Guinness world record book.
    What we lost is we fail to make a bridge with give officials for a solution. We fail to give it a much organised agitation grooming leadership from within the community.
    What we achieved : Shaheen Bagh becomes a brand name for this agitation against CAA NRC. And against police brutality against students of minority institutions and JNU.
    The agitation spread to whole country like this in many parts of country almost in all major cities of India count : approx at 40 places as of now.
    On 20 December till date Uttar Pradesh was much affected as Yogi govt taken very stern action and unnecessary use of power initially 4-5 days but after legal team spread in all cities police brutality calm down. Most of casualties appx 28 out of 44 happened in UP. The most beautiful thing happened that majority community specially secular hindus / sikhs came out in large numbers to support the protest. If Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati have taken a tough stand at ist day. I feel personally police brutality much lesser on the protesters.

    • A list of cities in India where #ProtestsAgainstCAA have happened or are going on:

      [Please add names in reply]

      1. Delhi
      2. Mumbai
      3. Kolkata
      4. Chennai
      5. Aligarh
      6. Lucknow
      7. Bangalore
      8. Mangalore
      9. Chandigarh
      10. Gaya
      11. Jaipur
      12. Allahabad
      13. Kanpur
      14. Kishanganj (BR)
      15. Patna
      16. Pune
      17. Raipur
      18. Vijaywada
      19. Ernakulam
      20. Malerkotla
      21. Koderma (Jh)
      22. Ranchi
      23. Dhemaji
      24. Jalgaon (MH)
      25. Bhopal
      26. Indore
      27. Guwahati
      28. Sonitpur
      29. Tezpur
      30. Aurangabad (MH)
      31. Ahmedabad
      32. Thiruvananthapuram
      33. Kochi
      34. Dehradun
      35. Rampur (UP)
      36. Udupi (Manipal)
      37. Darbhanga
      38. Siwan
      39. Giridih
      40. Vellore
      41. Nalanda
      42. Begusarai
      43. Muzaffarpur (BH)
      44. Hyderabad
      45. Jabalpur
      46. Nagpur
      47. Gorakhpur
      48. Jodhpur
      49. Asansol
      50. Bareilly
      51. Udaipur
      52. Kota
      53. Ludhiana
      54. Patiala
      55. Bijnor
      56. Calicut
      57. Malda
      58. Medinipur
      59. Bhubhaneshwar
      60. Cuttack
      61. Kolhapur
      62. Nashik
      63. Malegaon
      64. Vellore
      65. Mysore
      66. Dhanbad
      67. Margao
      68. Saharanpur
      69. Vasco
      70. Mapusa
      71. Panjim
      72. Malappuram
      73. Purnia
      74. Araria
      75. Meerut
      76. Nizamabad
      77. Nalgonda
      78. Kurnool
      80. Kollam
      91. Akola
      92. Siwan
      93. Tajpur( samastipur, bihar)

      • That’s a long list! Impressive.

        I hope that someone like you is recording this historic moment for future generations. Not just FB videos, but a serious analysis.

        These moments come rarely in history.

        And the Muslims of India, ironically, have to thank Modi for starting this process.

      • Lovely!!! to this we can add the voice of the diaspora – from USA to Nepal and Bangladesh, Indians and friends of India have held big and small demonstrations. In Europe, London, Berlin and Amsterdam have all see multiple protests. Even smaller places like The Hague, Aachen, Groninngen, Bern have protested. Where will all this lead us? Who knows? But at least we know that we are many, and they are increasingly few.

      • pl arrange it in alfabet order for easy analysis.. it seems Shaheens are showing more patriotic fervor than hindus , Burqa in tricolor turban in tricolor wear in tricolor to make the event more appeal able pl engage advertising agency ..

  13. Author is in a parallel universe, liberalarse shall we say.
    If anything the majority fully supports CAA. Hindu Muslim issues are perfect quicksand for Liberals. The more the ghettoes like Shaheen-bag raise the pitch, more people get behind CAA. The more Hindus consolidate, more liberals lose.
    Please Continue at Shaheen bag, and look what you are, out of touch.

  14. This is a report by Shivam Viz. Not convinced of authenticity. Will go by newspaper reports. Every journalist has an axe to grind.. Nothing personal.

  15. Difficult not to be deeply moved by the dignity, patience, fortitude of these brave women and their children, mirroring the virtues of ordinary Indians who have reaffirmed their faith in the Indian Constitution at such a tough juncture.

  16. No amount of skill drudgery with words by so called liberal writers and journalist on the pay roll of erstwhile dynasty, it is evident to every persons, having even a very low level of I.Q., that
    {1}the current agitation against CAA is patiently , communal and is exhibition of inner hatered which muslims have against Hindus.
    {2} most of the agitators have ,not to speak of grasping the underlying logic, necessity and its implication on them and class of immigrants , sought to be helped ,have read, understood or internalized the impact of this humanitarian piece of legislation passed by the democratically elected government led by the party which has put this in its election manifesto also.
    {3} There are allegations of some of agitators being paid –agitators. This may be true , may be false.
    {4} some of the leaders opposing the CAA allege this to be un-constitional. Are this type of matters decided on streets ??
    {5} Actually , agitation against CAA is based on and projection of unending hatred which so-called congress men and their so called left liberals , communalists like owaassis have against Modi Ji.
    Be sure it will meet its own end like “chowkidar chor hei “ rant of last elections.

  17. CAA NRC is trap. It is Hindu Muslim narrative. What is happening suits them fine. To checkmate them opposition needs to be equally clever and fall into the trap. Poor voters are interested in solution of their economic woes and also need a credible common leader. They will not understand nit ti gritties of CAA. Human emotions like fear, hatred, greed will work.

  18. Hey man, first thing, these all ‘shaheens’ are being paid for what they are doing. Second, they haven’t read the act properly. Third, these thing are done by the opposition to destabilise india which is in the most powerful condition then it had ever been in the history after independence.
    So, please stop this propaganda and return to your work.!!!

    • and i guess this IS your paid work: to repeat bjp propaganda? the people at Shaheen bag are not paid, they are very articulate and in a 100 interview we have seen how they are very aware.

    • You must be a paid writer of comments. The truth is, “The women at Shaheen Bagh have sent a defamation notice to BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya. The legal notice has demanded an apology and Rs 1 crore in damages from the BJP leader.”

  19. Mr Vij, these wannabee Arabic followers living in India cannot hide their anti-Hindu & anti-India hatred, how much will you try to do on their behalf.

  20. More the Modi hater crooks try to manufacture fake facts and fabricate anti India narrative, more they are exposed to people of India. Now they are more or less completely naked and no where to hide. Shaheen Bagh protests have proved beyond doubt that whether a RSS hater Muslim is educated or not they can be easily misled and fooled to do most irrational acts like protesting against CAA.

  21. This is the second Independence Movement.

    Muslims are finally reclaiming their land. And not only Muslims, but a lot of categories bypassed in the last 70 years.

    But for now they should steer clear not only of the BJP, but all the other political parties also, especially the Congress. And the Press too!

    A new India is being born right in front of our eyes. Brings tears to my eyes.

  22. ” It is electrifying to be at Shaheen Bagh. It is inspiring. It is soul-stirring. It is life re-affirming. If you haven’t yet been to Shaheen Bagh, you are missing out on being witness to history.” – Oh! What poetry. You are going into raptures! You are trying to make out as though Shaheen Bag is another Tiananmen Square. It is a strike by educated illiterates who cannot understand a two page length law called CAA.

    • May people at shaheen-bag are educated without claiming a degree (exact opposit of our PM who claims to have a degree but shows no sign of being educated). they are perfectly aware of what CAA contains. that is why they are protesting.

      • Because of morons like you and the author of this news article aka garbage, the agitators are holding the country to ransom. All you need is some lathi charge.

        • Thank you for the explicit last line that shows your mentality. with gandhi as example, you think we are afraid of lathis?

          • The protestors constitute only 15% population of our country (14% are muslims and 1% are liberandus, collectively called as Tukde Tukde gang). Remaining 85% population of India support CAA. This is an ideological war and it is important that Hindus defeat muslims in it. The government is doing the right thing by ignoring the protestors. It has been just 35 days. Rest assured, within next 3500 days, all Shaheen bagh protestors would go back home after accepting the reality that India is no longer interested in appeasing the minority community. Muslims need to fall in line or they shall be dealt with sternly.

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