“It started yesterday, some of the local people came with the police. Those were the spies. Some of them were spies,” says Farha, a protester at the Shahi Idgah anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protest in the national capital New Delhi’s Sadar Bazar.
The protest stands suspended amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The National Population Register and Census 2021, which were to be conducted together in a number of states, also stand postponed, according to central government officials.
Why do you call them spies?
“Actually, they used to come to our protest. We wanted to keep everyone together, and welcomed them so their views would change. But they were giving our information to the police. On Monday night all of them showed up, but we had already called off the protest,” Farha says.
Given the absence of public health awareness campaigns, demonstrations, facilitators or materials, she says theirs was the first protest to take initiative against the virus. They made their own hand sanitisers (100 mL spirit per 2L distilled water) at a time when pharmacists were hiking prices or running low, and following WHO protocols they demonstrated the necessary hygiene and distancing precautions for protestors.
Like sister sites in Inderlok, Turkman Gate and Raj Market – and like the mother site in Shaheen Bagh – they reduced their protest to a few representatives, sitting metres apart, wearing protective masks and gloves.
Mainly consisting of Muslim women, the protesters at Shahi Idgah, since 23 January 2020, have blocked a road in capital city using non-violent resistance for 55 days as of 22 March 2020.
“We did this first, to set an example for all the other sites in India. We didn’t want them closed down, so we took full precautions before any lockdown was announced.”
So what exactly happened on Monday and Tuesday?
“Actually, these people were already decided. On Monday our protest site was empty, there were only two people there, that too inside the building. There is a mosque, they were keeping an eye on it. Those people saw them, made calls, and all of a sudden the police were here with those locals.
“The first thing they did was tear up our posters. They went around breaking things, ripping out the poles. Then the 2-3 women who were inside came out to talk to them. The police were very rude to them. They broke a few more things and scuttled off,” the woman protester added.