Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam
On Tuesday, 11 February, as early trends for the Delhi elections polling show the Aam Aadmi Party getting a majority in the capital once again, the protesters at Shaheen Bagh have begun a silent protest as they continue the sit-in that began over fifty days ago.
Holding placards, the protesters say they don’t support any political party and are, silently, waiting for the poll results to be declared.
Why go silent today of all days? While one of the participants, Shabnam, told The Quint that their silent protest is against the alleged police crackdown on Jamia students, the general sentiment at Shaheen Bagh is their reluctance to be seen aligning with any party.
“We are neither happy with anyone’s victory nor sad with anyone’s defeat,” Shabnam told The Quint.
“We are fighting this battle for ourselves. Our demands include rollback of CAA, NRC and NPR. This bad law should be taken back. We are protesting against the way Jamia University’s students were beaten up police.”Shabnam, Protester
The protest, which is largely women-led, has transcended lines of political allegiance, religion, and class, and has become a symbol of resistance against a range of issues including the CAA, NRC, and police brutality.
Resisting Polarisation, Transcending Party Politics
The mood at Shaheen Bagh is sombre and there is no sign of celebration at the site.
As of 10:30 am, there were around 40-50 women at the protest site, including Bilkis, from the trio that has been labelled ‘Dabang Dadis’ on social media. Their placards all have the same message: ‘We don't support any party’.
Even as numerous attempts to polarise the voters were made during election campaign, with BJP leaders making headlines with their 'goli maaro' and 'current' comments, the protesters at Shaheen Bagh steadfastly maintain that they have no political affiliations, and only want the ‘black laws’ to be repealed.
Prior to the elections, the Election Commission had declared the polling booths near Shaheen Bagh ‘critical.’ Aam Aadmi Party’s Amanatullah Khan is the incumbent MLA and standing again this time. Against him are Congress's Parvez Hashmi and Bharatiya Janata Party's Brahm Singh Bidhuri.
Eye of the Storm
Even as the protest is currently silent, it is the eye of the storm, as the Supreme Court on Monday discussed the case of an infant’s death upon returning home from the protest site. The court had taken suo motu cognisance of the matter, after national bravery award winner Zen Gunratan Sadavarte wrote a letter about the case.
As of now, participants like, Bilkis Dadi, who have been coming to the sit-in since day one, said that they would wait for directions from the Supreme Court.
that on the issue of bringing kids to the protest, they
“A four-month-old child died and you (courts) were pained so much. When 40 students were injured, that didn’t pain you? Now, it (Supreme Court) has given time of eight days (to reply), whatever the decision it will be accepted by us.”Bilkis Dadi, Participant, Shaheen Bagh Protest
The apex court also tabled the matter of the protest blocking public roads and causing inconvenience to the people of Delhi, which is to be discussed on 17 February.
Responding to a question on what the will be the future course of action of the protest, Rizwan, a volunteer told The Quint:
“Where can we go? Either the Supreme Court suggests a site to us. There is no place available and we can’t protest from our homes.”Rizwan, Volunteer, Shaheen Bagh Protest
‘We have complete faith in the Supreme Court and whatever the decision is on 17 February, we will abide by it”, Rizwan said.
A Usual Day at Shaheen Bagh
Even as election results by noon made it clear that AAP was sweeping Delhi Assembly elections, it was business as usual at Shaheen Bagh.
Men peered at daily newspapers inside the main tent while women kept on pouring in through the day, taking the overall strength to about 200 by 1 pm.
Just walking distance away from the main protest site, the Shaheen Bagh makeshift library, also known as the ‘Fatima Sheikh Savitribai Phule Pustakalaya’ was buzzing with people who wanted to issue a book.
The library, which has been in existence since 17 January, continued to function just like any ordinary day.
Breaking misconception that the sit-in is meant only for participation of Muslims, volunteers from other religions too joined the protest and participated in today’s silent protest.
Holding the Bible in one hand and the placard about silent protest in another, Alexander Fleming has been a regular participant at Shaheen Bagh for last two months.
Tabrez, 37, an AC dealer had come all the way from Bengaluru to ‘support his sisters at Shaheen Bagh.’
He, too, abided by the vow of silent protest and stood holding a placard expressing his support to the sit-in and chose not to speak to the media at all.