‘Cops Bully Us, BJP Shames Us… But Ghanta Ghar Protest Is On’

Husan Ara, 46, has been at the forefront of anti-CAA protests at Ghanta Ghar Chowk in Lucknow. Ara invokes Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb to protest CAA

The women-led protests at Lucknow’s Ghanta Ghar saw only around eight of us women when the demonstration started on Thursday (January 16). But soon the numbers swelled and now there are thousands of people joining us each day. You know why?

Because Lucknow is at the heart of what is known as the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb and also a place where art forms are literally worshipped. So when Lucknow comes down on the streets, things will begin to change for the better.

ALSO READ: If Amit Shah Can’t Budge, Shaheen Bagh Won’t Either

The police have been after us since day one. When they saw that using the lathi and teargas on peaceful protesters didn’t work, they started using other measures to trouble the protesters. They took away our blankets inhumanely, our chatais (straw carpet) too. They cut the ropes used to erect makeshift shamiyanas (tents) so that we remain in the cold at night. They didn’t allow men to help us to lift heavy objects. FIRs have been registered against 150 people in Lucknow. But we are unfazed.

Husan Ara

We have decided, much like our sisters at Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi, to continue with our protest till the government listens to us. I have been working as a social activist for nearly 15 years and I can assure you that the Indian social fabric is too strong to be damaged by Citizenship Amendment Act or NRC (National Register of Citizen). NRC and CAA are deeply divisive, no matter what the government claims on the surface. And what’s with treating your own citizens like this?

BJP leader Amit Malviya claimed that women in Shaheen Bagh were coming to protest for ₹500 and a plate of biryani. Wasim Rizvi (Chairman of the Shia Waqf Board) said that women who were protesting at Ghanta Ghar were badkirdar (of easy virtue). We know these things will be thrown at us, but we as women can handle all of it. I have openly challenged him to come to the protest site and have a debate with me.

ALSO READ: ‘Mothers Are At Shaheen Bagh For Their Children Future’

As one of the people who have been here since the beginning, I make sure women don’t get scared. I use humour as a tool to keep their morale up. Also, we have decided kay iss protest me hum kissi rajneeti karne wale ko uski rotiyan senkne nahi denge (we won’t allow any politician to further personal agendas).

It is heartening to see men (both rich and poor) drop their wives to the protest site and then wait outside till the time they want to return. This protest has not only done away with religious differences, it has also cut the gender barrier and turned men and women into allies. Now the differences have vanished – no one is a man or woman, Hindu or Muslim, young or old, rich or poor. We are all just pro-secularism.

I have asked the protesters to appeal to the humanity of those who are on the opposite side or even the police. When ordinary people start getting scared of throngs of police women, I tell them they are here to protect us. We even gave roses to the police on duty. We also share our food with them, because in the end they are humans too. I wish the government initiated dialogues with the common people.

VIDEO: ‘Modi Has Woken Up A Sleeping Tiger’

I am also happy that art is being used so widely as a medium of protest. Art helps your point reach more people instinctively. Also, we have created an art area for kids who accompany their mothers and we let them colour and then display the finished pieces. Avadh has been a patron of arts for long and we will make sure that this new generation learns the art of deshbhakti and standing up for their rights from the very basic, ground root level.

‘Mothers Are At Shaheen Bagh To Save Their Children Future’

Aqsa Khursheed, a 19-year-old Political Science student, says the protest at Shaheen Bagh will not peter out because it is run by mothers who are battling for their children’s well-being

The demonstration at Shaheen Bagh started on December 15 and there are no signs of the protest wearing off. It is amazing to see the sheer number of people and their steely strength to stay put for the cause. People from all religions have been registering their presence at the protest site. The protest site at Shaheen Bagh is a five minute walk from my place, so I have been witnessing it from the start.

While the women sit and sleep near the main stage, men form a circle or sort of human chain around the women to keep them safe. From 3-month-old babies to 12- year-old kids, the kids accompanying their mothers don’t know that history is being created. We are working on Gandhian principles and you can call our protest as Satyagraha.

ALSO READ: If Amit Shah Can’t Budge, We Too Won’t

If you were to ask me what is giving the women of Shaheen Bagh the strength to carry on in this severe cold of Delhi, I would say it is maa ka jazba (a mother’s passion). There is no power bigger or stronger than the love that a mother feels for her child.

Most women want a safer country for their children, and that is why they are here. Also, many women felt sad about the fact that they couldn’t do much when the students at Jamia were being beaten up last month. They say that if their children (Jamia students) can stand fearlessly, they too can. Maaon ko thand nahi lagti (A mother knows not what cold weather is).

Aqsa Khursheed with an anti-CAA placard at Shaheen Bagh protest site

Shaheen Bagh in Delhi has become the epicentre of protests against Citizenship Act and NRC (National Register of Citizens) and we have assembled here to save the Constitution as well as our constitutional rights.

WATCH: ‘Modi Has Woken Up A Sleeping Tiger’

We are very well organised and connected. Several days back, there were reports that the police were trying to remove the protestors from the site, after a heavy police presence was seen in the area. Around 4 pm on Sunday (January 5) many police vans, buses etc had gathered up near the site. The word spread and in less than an hour, swarm of people began pouring in at Shaheen Bagh to show their solidarity with the protesters.

Shaheen Bagh has shown to what lengths people can go if they are determined about what they want. Menfolk aren’t complaining about women being at the protest site day in and day out. It is heartening to see that my father, who till a few days ago didn’t know how to cook, keeps on telling my mother, “You be comfortable and go to the protest site, I will take care of myself. I will make my own tea or the food that I want to eat.” He thinks there is nothing more important for my mother than saving the Constitution.

WATCH: How Supporters Keep Shaheen Bagh Alive

The residents of Shaheen Bagh have opened their doors to anyone who comes to the protest site. The level of trust people have in each other is a beautiful experience. People from far off are coming to Shaheen Bagh. We are here to safeguard our fundamental rights as citizens of this country (Articles 14- 32 of the Constitution) and we hope the government will listen to us soon. We have faith that the situation will change, now that the people have woken up to both their rights and duties as citizens.

Anti-Citizenship Law Protest In Delhi

‘If Amit Shah Can’t Budge On CAA, Shaheen Bagh Won’t Either’

Shaheen Kousar, a 44-year old protester at Shaheen Bagh, tells LokMarg why Muslim women have come out to resist Modi government’s move on Citizenship Act and National Register of Citizen

Yes, I am Shaheen from Shaheen Bagh. And I, along with many other women, have resolved to take this battle forward with my faith and inner strength. The Modi government has to listen to what we have to say about CAA-NRC. Is the government wondering as to why the Muslim women who did not take to streets even when the Triple Talaq Bill was brought in, have now come out in such a strong manner? Because now the very existence of our children and our own existence and this country’s social fabric is at stake.

Our protest site is located near NH-24 and is known as the Shaheen Bagh Highway. While some people are complaining that our protest is affecting traffic, many other people from other parts of Delhi are coming to us and interacting with us and telling us that they support us.

It is heartening to see that people from all religions are showing their love and support to us. It’s not like we don’t feel cold and tired. We go home only for 4-5 hours every day. But till the time we are at the protest site, people who have their residence near the site have opened their homes (including their kitchens and washrooms) for us.

People used to say that in big cities people don’t even interact with their neighbours, but look at the beauty of it, how people are now trusting complete strangers because they believe in a common goal. To put it succinctly, the warmth of human interactions isn’t letting us feel the cold.

Moreover, we are protesting in an organized manner. We have divided duties among ourselves. Some people are responsible for food, others for sanitation, and a few others for security. Thankfully the organisation of the protest has been so good that no untoward incident has taken place. Is bar aar ya paar wali bat hai (This is a do or die situation). If our Home Minister isn’t ready to go back an inch, then we are also staying put here.

It’s not like we don’t understand the nitty-gritties of what an act like CAA entails deep down. Having to manage chilly weather, biting winters coupled with rains, police batons, household work as well as office work, nothing is going to weaken our resolve that the government take this act back.

Amit Shah as well as our Prime Minister Narendra Modi have said it is just about giving citizenship to people (except Muslims) from three countries. Fine, but then what are these detention centres being prepared for? It is for those inside the country who won’t be able to prove their citizenship. The government is giving confusing signals whether detention centres exist or not. This time we aren’t going to take things at face value.

If they can hurt unarmed and vulnerable students in Jamia and JNU, who is to say that things are going to be better later on? The NRC exercise in Assam showed there were only 19 lakh people who couldn’t prove their citizenship, then the government brought in CAA. Now they are talking about NPR (National Population Register).

I am a director at a school and by God’s grace, like many other women, I have been able to manage my home, my professional life as well as coming to the protest site. We are doing all this for our nation, for our children and we hope God will keep providing us with the strength to carry forward. If the kids can be strong and fearless in the face of brutality fir to hum bhi beraham aur tang-nazar logon ke samne aawaz utha hi sakte hain. Magar hum wo aawaz shanti se uthana chahte hain. (if students can show their resistance to police brutality, we too can raise our voice against a suppressive, and narrow-vision regime. But we want to raise this voice democratically and peacefully). Our resolve should speak volumes.

Interview of Barrister Bains

Watch – ‘A Policeman Can’t Play The Role Of An Executioner’

As a CBI court in Mohali sentences six Punjab Police personnel 10-year rigorous imprisonment for the disappearance (read extra-judicial killing) of Baba Charan Singh and six members of his family in 1992-93, LokMarg speaks to Barrister Satnam Singh Bains, the lawyer-activist behind the conviction.

Watch – Supporters Keep Shaheen Bagh Protest Alive In Delhi

Anti-Citizenship Act protesters at Shaheen Bagh in south Delhi have drawn solidarity from many quarters – from tea-sellers to medical fraternity. These supporters have been distributing hot cups of tea, snacks, food items and medical aid free of cost.

JNU victim Aneek Das violence has left deep scars

‘JNU Violence Has Left Deep Scars On My Memory’

Aneek Das, 22, a Third Year German Language student in Jawaharlal Nehru University, recalls the terror unleashed by masked mob inside the campus on January 5. He still gets nightmares

Many students and teachers had assembled at the Sabarmati T-point on Sunday (January 5) for a peace march called by JNUTA (Jawaharlal Nehru Teachers’ Association). The peace march had been called because the campus had been witnessing sporadic incidents of violence related to registration issues.

The students who had been protesting against the fees hike were of the view that agreeing to registration would mean agreeing to the increased fee structure. Also, since the examinations for the current semester had not been conducted in the university, how could we possibly get ourselves enrolled for the next semester?

A day before the Sunday march the JNU students affiliated to the BJP-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad or ABVP wanted to get themselves registered. However, they could not do so because the Wi-Fi connection was disconnected (It is still not clear if someone disconnected the Wi-Fi on purpose or it was a mechanical glitch). The main fight between the left and right wing students was on this issue until matters got out of hand on Sunday around 7.30 pm. From then on, it was mayhem at an unprecedented scale.

Men and women were both part of the masked mob that entered our campus on Sunday. The police, which till then had been keeping a very sharp eye on the campus (even checking each and every auto that entered the campus), allowed a mob to run riot. Being masked should have raised suspicion and they could have been denied entry. Even the guards who are supposed to ‘guard’ the campus were nowhere to be seen. It was disheartening as well as scary to know that such violence can occur on a university campus. Once the attackers charged on the march, the participants ran to save their lives. However, several professors couldn’t run fast and were targeted by the mob. The respected faculty got beaten mercilessly along with a few other students.

I, along with many of my friends, ran to the nearest hostel which is Sabarmati to save our lives. We entered rooms of our friends and put the bed as barricade on the doors. The frustrated mob smashed the window panes to strike fear and vent out their anger. Finally, they went away to another hostel. Though most of us were not badly physically hurt, some of us are undergoing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) for sure. Even while sleeping I wake up in cold sweat when I feel a group of men is banging on my door to break it open. I guess it will take a long time for these scars to go away.

I am a third year student of German at JNU, and I haven’t seen this scale of violence in the campus. Reports are out which shows outsiders entered the campus and unleashed terror on unsuspecting students and teachers. You can’t even imagine the pain and worry that our parents are going through. We are protesting the fees hike because we can’t afford increased fees (which is quite a large amount, unlike what a section of the media have shown).

Our parents are asking us to come home or keep away from the campus until the situation returns to normal, but the thing is that the situation in JNU isn’t being allowed to be normal for the past 3-4 years. When is the situation ever going to be normal enough for us to feel safe?

‘Attackers Were Brutal, Didn’t Spare Teachers, Girls’

Usman Ahmad, 20, a Third Year student at the School of Language (Pashto) in Jawaharlal Nehru University, suffered severe knee injury when masked men attacked a peaceful march by teachers’ body on January 5. Ahmad recalls the chain of events that led to the unprecedented violence on the campus

On Sunday evening (January 5, 2020) around 4 pm, many of us students gathered to attend a peace march called in by JNUTA (Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association) from Sabarmati T-point.

Then suddenly we heard some commotion we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a group of abusive men, their faces covered with mask, who started throwing stones at us. This caused panic among us and we began to run for cover and shelter towards the hostel area. The mob chased us and started beating students or teachers, whoever they could lay their hands on.

The attackers were beating up people indiscriminately – boys or girls, old or young, they hit them all brutally with sticks and iron rods. Even the elderly professors were not spared. Just as I was attacked by a stranger, I was saved by another stranger.

There were frantic calls for police and medical help as students were worried about the injured. But the attackers had clearly come with a strategy to inflict maximum violence. Not only was the mob beating us up, a group of them were on guard to not let any help or ambulance enter the campus. The police, which needed no permission to chase students in Jamia, did nothing to save the students from the mob this time.

The street lights outside the main gate had been damaged or switched off. It all seems well-planned to me. I have never seen this scale of mob violence in my life and I hope I never see it again. A lot of my friends were injured on Sunday and I am saddened about what is going on in my university.

I belong to Bahraich in Uttar Pradesh and I am the first person from my family to take up higher studies. I lost my father early in life and my elder brother, a mechanic, is the sole breadwinner for the family. Sunday’s incident has shaken my family too. They insisted on video calls to see if I were safe.

Why is it so difficult for people to understand that the increased fees will be a huge burden on many families who can’t afford to send their children to private universities? The JNU fees structure was such that people from any section of society could avail the benefits of higher education here.

We have been protesting against the fee hike for long. JNU authorities had asked us to register ourselves for the next semester. I want to ask if the exams have not been held how we can enrol ourselves for the next semester! Plus, enrolling ourselves would mean we agree to the new fee structure when we clearly don’t. So much has happened and yet our Vice Chancellor is nowhere to be seen. I feel sad and still wonder what is going on in a university we felt so proud to be a part of.

Watch – ‘With CAA, Modi Has Woken Up A Sleeping Tiger’

LokMarg visits Shaheen Bagh in south Delhi, where hundreds of protesters, largely women, have been sitting on demonstration against Citizenship Amendment Act since December 14. They say Modi government has woken up a sleeping tiger and they will not back down till the anti-Constitutional law is revoked.

‘I Celebrate New Year Eve With Cops On Duty’

When revelers hit the streets to celebrate New Year Eve, Ajeet Pandey, 33, from Noida has chosen to serve piping hot tea to policemen on duty. He sees it a humble gesture to acknowledge a thankless policing job

Five years back, I was returning from a New Year Eve’s party with my wife from a friend’s house in Noida. I was barely three kilometers from home when the one of the tyres of my car flattened and I pulled over. As luck would have it, even my spare wheel turned out to be punctured.

Stuck on a Noida road at one o’clock in the night with one’s wife is not exactly a pleasant thought. Suddenly, out of nowhere, two policemen on a patrol bike approached us. As we explained them our situation, they immediately called for assistance and got our tyre fixed. One of them, in his late forties, suggested me to always double check the spare tyre if venturing out at night with family. I thanked them wholeheartedly and went home.

That was the time I realised how important a policeman is for our society and how difficult their job is. These must be sipahis, constables, ASIs (assistant sub inspectors) and sub inspector level officials who do not earn a fat check from their job but forego all festivals in the line of duty and we the residents of this metropolitan city, remain thankless.

At that moment I decided that I will visit policemen who are on duty at every festival. The next evening, when revelers were on the streets of Noida on January 1st 2015, I prepared three flask full of tea, packed up 100 paper-cups, a dozen biscuit packs along with some chips and drove around the city for hours. I randomly visited policemen who were working late in the bone-chilling weather and offered them piping hot tea.

I was amazed to see the reaction from the cops. They were happy and grateful with one cup of hot tea and some biscuits. Actually, they were happy that the residents of this city thought about them. It was a small gesture but it won hearts of the cops and I too returned satisfied with the act.

Ajeet Pandey with Noida Police patrol on New Year Eve

Since then, I visit policemen on duty at all possible festivals to serve them tea and snacks. This New Year’s eve also, I visited many policemen on night patrol with tea and followed it up the next evening too.

If we keep calling the cops with all the bad names that are popular in the culture, how can we expect them to keep us safe? If we thank them at least once a year for their service, it will change the perception of a policeman. If someone is in trouble, the first relief comes in the form of Khaki. This is the truth.

So, why do we shy away in thanking them? Why can’t we celebrate our festivals with those spending nights on the streets to keep us safe? This is a very small gesture and if all of us start following this, there will be a drastic change in policing and police- people relationship in India.

‘Tardy Justice Breeds Calls For Extra-Judicial Killings’

Shaina, 33, a resident of Loni area in Delhi-NCR, was returning from college on August 11, 2009, when she was attacked with acid by a jilted lover. An activist for women’s rights, she demands speedy justice in crimes against women and death penalty for rapists.

I cannot forget that day. It was a beautiful evening. I was feeling a cool breeze after a spell of rain. I was returning from my college classes unaware of how things would change for me from that day onward. A man had been stalking me for several months and had proposed me time and again for marriage. That day he was on a two-wheeler with an accomplice. As soon as he came in front of me, I thought he would try to convince me once again. I was wrong. Angered by taking a no to his moves, he had carried a bottle of acid with him, which he threw on my face.

The pain was unbearable. Even while in pain, I tried to catch hold of him but he escaped. I felt my skin was melting and I cried for help. The passers-by were also shocked as they be seeing such a horrific incident in person for the first time.

They took me to the hospital but by that time, my face was had been severely damaged. The treatment was long and costly and even though I survived, I could not find the courage to see my face in mirror.

I fought a long legal battle and today both the attackers are behind the bars, serving life imprisonment.

That incident happened more than a decade ago. But when I look at social scenario today, not much has changed in these ten years. Like me, all the women who faced similar or more heinous crime, have to wait for years to get justice. Families of those who were raped and killed, like Nirbhaya, have to live often with disgrace, agony and pain. Laws after laws are being passed but the prevention of crime against women is not possible with a tardy justice system.

This is why most people, including me, feel that the Hyderabad Police is probably right in having killed the rapists and murderers of Dr Reddy, even though it has set a wrong precedent. What will the policemen do if the judicial system takes so long to hang such monsters?

The rapists and murderers of Nirbhaya are still in jail for years even after being awarded the capital punishment. One mercy petition after another is being filed for them to buy time. How long the parents of Nirbhaya seek justice? There has to be an end. There has to be a fear of law among such criminals. Without eminent threat of death, such heinous cases are hard to be prevented. 

Not only the justice system but the police too needs to act fast on such complaints. There should be no laid back attitude by the agencies and immediate disciplinary action must be taken against those officers who are delaying investigation.

Today my life’s only aim is to fight against atrocities against women. I know I have lost a lot of things in life but the acid attack has given me a new motive to carry on. I am working with the Delhi Commission for Women as a Mahila Panchayat member and giving strength and providing all possible aid to women who face violence and sexual assault. Hope the governments work together in strengthening of laws, courts and police for effective action and quick justice in all such cases.