People rising against Shaheen Bagh squatters

People mostly from south-eastern Delhi neighbourhoods like Ashram, NFC, Sukhdev Vihar, Sarita Vihar, Badarpur, Faridabad and Noida, who have been greatly inconvenienced for the past 40 days by detours around the protest spot, plan to march to Shaheen Bagh on 2 February

In the midst of the violence in Shaheen Bagh, the patience of people is running thin. Now the citizens facing problems due to the closure of the road have decided enough is enough, they will hit the road too.

People mostly from the area around the Apollo Hospital, Ashram, New Friends Colony, Sukhdev Vihar, Sarita Vihar, commuters from Badarpur and Faridabad and those from Noida are planning to march to the Kalindi Kunj Road, which has been closed for almost 40 days.

On Friday, the Muslim activists morally supported by the opposition parties assaulted journalists of Doordarshan and private channel India News‘ Deepak Chaurasia and his cameramen at Shaheen Bagh. The agitators damaged the cameras of both the crews that were at the spot to cover the demonstrations. Later, they attacked citizen journalists who were live-streaming their activities.

The incident marked a return of violence after students of Jamia Millia Islamia and Okhla Gaon ransacked Sukhdev Vihar and New Friends Colony after the passage of the amendment of India’s 1955 law on citizenship in the parliament. In between, since the protests had begun at Shaheen Bagh, surrounded by localities with thick populations of Muslims, they were only stopping people trying to pass through the road.

Those protesting against the amended Citizenship Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) had said earlier after meeting Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Anil Baijal that the maximum ‘concession’ they were ready to give was passage to school buses but even then their squatting on the thoroughfare wouldn’t end.

Now the local people not interested in this protest are going to take to the streets against the Shaheen Bagh squatters. The people of Sarita Vihar, upset due to the road closure, have a plan that they will execute on 2 February. They will march from their neighbourhood to Shaheen Bagh. They demand that the closed road be opened for use by ordinary citizens.

Some people planning the anti-protest protest have met Ajab Singh, ACP of Sarita Vihar. They told Singh if there was no way out till next week, they would go ahead with their plan to challenge the blockade.

A resident Gabbar Singh Chauhan, who is preparing for the counter-demonstration, said it would not be like a rally of a political party. “Just as the people of Shaheen Bagh have the right to protest, the people of Sarita Vihar and Jasola have the right to protest too,” he said.

At the same time, the squatters say that at the moment they have not been able to decide whether to open the road to the public. The protesters say that even if the barricade is removed, it will be difficult to walk on the road because there is a map of India of about 40 feet of metal on it. “It can only be removed with the help of a crane. It is made by welding, which may take a few days to remove,” an activist squatting on the road said.

The poor are no less peeved than the middle class. Among the people of a slum cluster in south-eastern Delhi, a resident said, “I was taking my child from school. The protesters stopped me and asked to leave Madanpur Khadar. They spared me only after repeated requests.”

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