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Delhi lockdown: Anti-CAA protesters removed from Shaheen Bagh, other places

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Shaheen Bagh protest site cleared by Delhi police amid lockdown over Coronavirus
Shaheen Bagh protest site cleared by Delhi police amid lockdown over Coronavirus
NEW DELHI: Nearly 100 days after the Shaheen Bagh protests began, the women-led, sit-in agitation came to an end on Tuesday, with the Delhi police and paramilitary forces clearing the site on Tuesday morning.

ET spoke to the women protesters who said that the police came around 7 am when hardly 25 protesters were there. Salma Ahmed, one of the protesters, said the pressure to end the protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has been building up over the last few days and the number of protesters had reduced significantly ever since the lockdown was announced in the city on Monday.

“The police had come to speak to a few of us two times, and had insisted that we were posing health threats with Covid-19 going on. We had denied that, saying that we have taken the necessary precautions. We are maintaining sufficient distance from each other on separate beds. We had sanitisers and a doctor here too. We had very few speakers. On Sunday, to observe janta curfew, we left our slippers here, with just four protesters,” she said. She said “it was unfair that all the artwork put up by the protesters have been removed… This means they won’t let us re-group again… why did they have to destroy all our symbols of dissent?” she said. A protester said, on an average there were just about 45-50 women everyday, and only 15-20 at nights.

“Many of us felt that if we give up the spot now, they won’t let us reclaim it later,” Niloufer Khan, a regular at the protest said. Activist and youth organisations such as the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) and lawyers assisting the women with medical and legal care had also asked them to stop the protests for now.

After the police cleared the site, locals of Abul Fazal enclave and other areas near the protest site gathered and protested against the clearance, even as over 40 policemen tried to drive the protesters away. Shaheen Bagh’s official Twitter handle also posted a tweet saying the Delhi Police used “coercive force to dismantle the protest site” though it had been scaled down to a symbolic form considering the Covid-19 precaution.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (South East) RP Meena said steps were taken due to the Covid-19 outbreak, and that protesters were warned many times. “The point was, at times of emergency health crisis, no road can stay blocked. Some people were detained,” Meena added.

The women said the protests continued peacefully even when riots broke out in northeast Delhi, claiming 43 lives and injuring more than 500. Over 1,000 personnel had been deployed in Shaheen Bagh then.

The protest that had become the face of anti-CAA-NRC protests in India, had inspired over 17 other similar protests across the country. It was also the flashpoint between the AAP and BJP during the Delhi elections.

“People at the protest site in Shaheen Bagh were requested a number of times to clear the site as the lockdown has been imposed. But after they refused, action was taken against the violators as assembly is unlawful,” Meena said. Police officials said that in the last week, traders and residents of Kalindi Kunj had requested them to initiate action to stop the protests.

Earlier, a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court seeking direction to the authorities to remove the protesters as they were causing hardships to people by blocking the Delhi-Noida road. After this, the SC appointed inter-locuters to speak with the protesters. Protests at Jamia University, Jaffrabad and Hauz Rani have also been cleared, the Delhi police have said.
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