Kolkata: The news of women going for an indefinite sit-in demonstration was rife in Kolkata since New Year eve, but where and how wasn’t clear, till a handful of women walked into the Park Circus Maidan on January 7, to announce that they would be sitting in at the spot till the government repeals Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and strikes off the impending possibility of enacting National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
As the news spread, more men and women kept walking into the spot to pledge their solidarity with Park Circus women.
Speaking to eNewsroom, Azmat Jameel, a social worker, who was among the first few to start the sit-in, reasoned about the protest, “I am here since 1 pm. Inspired by the women of Shaheen Bagh, we had been contemplating on starting a sit-in. But we had not been able to decide on when to start. The attack on women at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) shook me and I decided, that the sit-in had to be organised in Kolkata now. Thus, we walked in and have been sitting here since long.”
When asked, who the ‘we’ are, she said, “We the people of India, who else. This sit-in is a public demonstration and has no political affiliation. Strangely enough, NRC, CAA and NPR had woken up the sleeping leaders in us. So, like all protests, it’s a leaderless and bannerless protest.”
A similar answer was given to police officers, who were trying to convince the crowd to disperse after some time, only to come the next day. However, the protesters were in no mood to leave the spot. “We are doing it here with the sole intention of not disrupting public life. No traffic will be disrupted if we sit here. It’s a peaceful demonstration. The police shouldn’t object to it. We have the right to express dissent,” said Shafqat Rahim an LLM student in Constitutional Law and Human Rights. On being asked, when she had walked in to show solidarity, she replied, “We had got an SOS from the participating women, so we rushed from other rallies to this spot to make sure that the police don’t force them to evacuate the spot.”
Replying to a question raised by the police officer objecting to their indefinite sit-in, she said, “They told us that this is not Shaheen Bag nor is the state hostile to protest, then what’s the need of an indefinite sit-in. To that, all that I have to say is that no doubt the government has been supportive to the ant-NRC movement, but that doesn’t negate the point that we are all Indians and that Delhi and UP are part of India. We are doing it here to mark a protest against atrocities being inflicted on anti-NRC/CAA/NPR protestors in BJP-ruled states.”
Like Shafqat, a huge number of students from various universities and colleges in Kolkata assembled at the spot, within a few hours of receiving the SOS message. “We are here to show solidarity with those protesting here. Today we all are united as citizens. We belong to no university but the University of Humanity,” Arup Biswas, one of the students who had assembled at Park Circus.
The participants, who didn’t want to break any rules, on the spot wrote a letter seeking permission for the sit-in to the necessary officials and then continued their protest, throughout the night.