Tuesday 28 June 2022
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Shaheen Bagh: More spectators than protesters now

This venue in Delhi, arbitrarily selected for demonstrations, bears an increasingly desolate look, with protesters rendered a divided lot by not only a resolute government but also forces sympathetic to their 'cause'

As the government showed its resolve on the amended citizenship law (CAA), notwithstanding the Shaheen Bagh-imposed embargo on the people of Noida, Faridabad and areas of Delhi in and around Ashram for the past 84 days, the crowd has begun thinning at the venue of protest. The crowd, despite sporadic pep-talk by a few rabble-rousers, is not coming back.

Locals are offering different reasons for the disinterest as one observes very few people during the day at Shaheen Bagh. A semblance of crowd gathers in the evening. This suggests that while the squatters have no compunction about inconveniencing others, they are minding their own business during the day while pretending after the sunset that they are as stubborn as the state is resolute.

On weekdays, the strength of the crowd stays in the range of 50-100. Yesterday, it was 70-80. This is a drastic fall from the average simultaneous attendance of 500 to 600 people at Shaheen Bagh.

Interlocutors drove a wedge in Shaheen Bagh

The last big crowd was seen when the arbitrators of the Supreme Court had visited to talk to the demonstrators. On the persuasion of the mediators, some protesters were ready to give people passage while some wanted the blockade to continue.

In fact, while former CEC Wajahat Habibullah took their side and blamed Delhi Police for the imbroglio in his affidavit to the Supreme Court as its mediator, the intervention by him, and Sadhana Ramachandran drove a wedge in protesters’ unity the day their opinion split between ending the roadblock and continuing with it.

While the interlocutors were not empowered to concede any point, the central government shows no sign of accepting the protesters’ demands either.

A house divided

One of the women said the children were taking annual exams. Another woman said many of the squatters had fallen ill. Some others in the thin assembly said the squatters were tired. Others said the older lot who used to come to Shaheen Bagh zealously every day in the initial period are not visible anymore.

It is visible that internal feud has gripped Shaheen Bagh. There is a dispute over leadership of the demonstration. There is also some rivalry between wannabe leaders.

Finally, women and men differ on how the protest against the CAA must continue, with women, who earlier looked to be in charge complaining that their families, especially children are suffering while the men want them to protest without themselves toiling as hard.

Attempts against blockade

Those inconvenienced by the roadblock appealed to the Supreme Court to end it. The apex court told the protesters of Shaheen Bagh everyone had the right to protest but not at the expense of other citizens. This impacted the morale of squatters too.

Already before the demonstrations had begun, many women were heard in videos complaining that even the Supreme Court had turned pro-Hindu, as they cited examples other than the CAA such as the Ayodhya verdict and no reversing of the scrapping of Article 370.

They were so much against the government that some women were heard complaining against the abolition of triple talaq too — even though the legislation was meant to benefit them.

After the Supreme Court’s urge and Delhi Police’s frequent requests to the protesters to move, Shaheen Bagh is a dejected lot.

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