How Shaheen Bagh Became Hub Of Anti-CAA Protests In 2019-20

The sight of protesters flooding the roads to prevent the demolition brings back memories of the days and nights of protest at Shaheen Bagh which became the centre of resistance during the nation-wide anti-CAA/NRC protests that started in December 2019 and lasted till the Covid-19 lockdown on March 24. 

Shaheen Bagh protests in 2019

On Monday, bulldozers marched into Shaheen Bagh to raze illegal structures including shops and homes of residents under the BJP-ruled South Delhi Municipal Corporation's latest anti-encroachment drive. At Shaheen Bagh, the neighbourhood that became a household name in the country in December 2019, the machines were met with a sea of protesting residents, including women who blocked the buildings and stood guard. According to reports, the matter has reached Supreme Court which is set to hear the case at 2 pm.

The sight of protesters flooding the roads at Shaheen Bagh, however, brings back memories of the days and nights of protest at Shaheen Bagh which became the centre of resistance during the nation-wide anti-CAA/NRC protests that started in December 2019 and lasted till the Covid-19 lockdown on March 24. 

Here is a timeline of the protests that made Shaheen Bagh famous: 

The protests at Shaheen Bagh started on December 15 as part of nationwide demonstrations against the Citizenship Amendment Act that was passed on December 11 and the National Registrar of Citizens. The protests were unique not only because they were carried out in a peaceful manner but because they were led mainly by Muslim women - a section of society that was rarely seen at the forefront of protest before this. 

On December 15, women from Shaheen Bagh and other nearby localities in north-east Delhi, some of whom had already been protesting at Jaffrabad, assembled at the intersection of Shaheen Bagh and sat on an indefinite sit-in protest against the CAA, NRC, and NPR. The protests blocked the Kalindi Kunj road that connects Shaheen Bagh to Noida.

By December 17, tents had come up in the area, which was cordoned off with barricades by Delhi Police. According to reports, the barricading hampered the movement of nearly 100,000 vehicles a day, causing hue traffic logjams and detours across the capital. While the Delhi Police have blamed the protests at Shaheen Bagh for the traffic snares, critics claimed it was actually the barricading put up by the police on roads leading to and from the locality that caused the jams.

By January, with the Legislative Assembly elections in Delhi around the corner, the protests became the centre of a political storm with the BJP targeting it in its poll campaign and claiming that it will remove the demonstrators if it came t power in Delhi. The matter also reached court after several petitions were filed against and for it. In January, an activist-advocate Amit Sahni moved Delhi High Court seeking directions to the Delhi Police to withdraw the closure of the stretch and the Okhla underpass. The court, however, did not give such orders and asked the police to act 'according to their wisdom'. 

On Feb 2, just a couple of days after the shooting in Jamia Millia, a man identified as Kapil, shot two rounds from a gunjust metres away from the protesters' stage at Shaheen Bagh. No one was injured in the shooting. The shooter allegedly shouted 'Jai Shri Ram' along with other communal slogans while firing the shots. 

On Feb 3, a plea was filed in SC seeking a disbanding of the Shaheen Bagh protests as they caused traffic snarls and overall hardships to people. By Feb 18, the court said that people had the fundamental right to protest and appointed three interlocutors to speak to Shaheen Bagh protesters. 

By March 16, the Delhi government had announced restrictions against the gathering of more than 50 people in light of the spreading Covid-19 pandemic. The protesters agreed to comply with the orders but it was only on March 17 that the number of protesters came down.

On March 23, as India observed 'janta curfew', petrol bombs were hurled at the Shaheen Bagh protest site. No one was hurt. 

On March 24, after the imposition of the nationwide lockdown, the protest site was finally deserted. Since then, the neighbourhood has moved on from the protests. In the first few days of the lockdown, Delhi Police broke down the structures and stage formed by the protesters at Shaheen Bagh and painted over the graffiti and artwork that had come up over the months of the sit-in. 

The Shaheen Bagh protests became a landmark in the history of India's protests as it was one of the first to be led by marginalised and economically backward Muslim women. Demolitions at Shaheen Bagh have thus raised eyebrows as it is home to many Muslim families from middle and lower-income groups and critics have claimed that bringing in bulldozers at Shaheen Bagh is a way to erase the memory of the protests.