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Away from Rajpath, Shaheen Bagh ‘celebrates the Republic’ | India News

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NEW DELHI: While the Republic Day parade was on at Rajpath on Sunday morning, a different sort of celebration of the Republic was underway at Shaheen Bagh. Tens of thousands gathered at the now well-known protest site in southeast Delhi, where a trio of “Shaheen Bagh dadis” (grandmoms) unfurled the tricolour.

The organisers said the trio was accompanied by the mothers of former Hyderabad Central University scholar Rohith Vemula (Radhika) and missing JNU student Najeeb (Fatima Nafees), who unfurled the national flag together to a rapturous applause, followed by songs of celebration and patriotism which continued through the day.

Locals in the area, who have been at the forefront of the protest considered the heart of Delhi’s dissent against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC), claimed that over a lakh people came from across the city and outside to celebrate India’s Constitution on Sunday. The site resembled a sea of orange, white and green as the protesters waved the tricolour while fresh paintings, graffiti and street art around the national flag came up at the site.

Around 10 pm, actress Swara Bhasker visited the protest site and hit out at the central government for creating a negative image about the women protesting there. Also present were former JNU student Umar Khalid and Vadgam assembly constituency (in Gujarat) MLA Jignesh Mevani.

“Jahan dekho, tiranga lehra raha hai. Jahan dekho, India likha hai. Shaheen Bagh ke dil mein India hai. Pure desh ko dikh raha hai, aapko nahi dikh raha? (Wherever you see, there’s a tricolour waving. Wherever you look, there is India written. India is in Shaheen Bagh’s heart. The whole country can see that, so why can’t you?” said Bhasker, addressing the crowd in the evening.

Republic Day celebrations at Shaheen Bagh had begun at midnight itself, when thousands gathered for a mass reading of the preamble. This was followed by performances by artistes, street play troupes and music groups which continued late into the night. The tricolour was unfurled around 11am. While the Shahaan Bagh protest has been going on for over a month now, the organisers described Sunday as the most important day of the protest.

“We’ve tried to send a loud and clear message to the government that the Constitution is above all and on a day when it came into effect, what better way to celebrate the Constitution than to oppose CAA and NRC?” asked Irfan Ansari, a Shaheen Bagh local. Sporting an anti-CAA and NRC cap, Ansari said that just like the government which is adamant on not taking the back the Act, people of Shaheen Bagh will also continue to “respect” the ideals of the Constitution.

“This is not a communal issue, but it is far bigger than that. We will not tolerate divisive politics and over 1 lakh people came here this morning. This is a sign of unity and that everyone is willing to fight for each other,” said Ansari.

Naeemuddin, another local present at the site said the occasion, which is a reason to celebrate the Constitution and the fact that it was a public holiday attracted people from all parts of the city.

“There were at least 1-1.5 lakh people in the morning alone and celebrations continued till late at night. People are singing songs, carrying banners or simply coming here to stand in solidarity with each other,” said Naeemuddin.

Shahid Hussain, who came to Shaheen Bagh from Usmanpur said the occasion felt like a celebration and not a protest, which has been the objective of the people. “A lot of misinformation is being spread that people here are being paid to come here or that this protest is about a particular community. People from all across the city are coming here and we are seeing all religions and communities represented. The fight is to save our constitution and the rights of every Indian,” said Hussain.

The protesters also asserted that attempts being made to politicise the Shaheen Bagh agitation were likely to fail. On Saturday, Union home minister Amit Shah had asked people to “press the lotus button (during voting in Delhi assembly polls) so hard it makes the Shaheen Bagh protesters run away on the very evening of February 8”.

“The attempts to gain political mileage from the protests are wrong and people are not deterred by such accusations. Those who come to Shaheen Bagh know the ground reality and these numbers will only continue to grow,” said Ejaj.

Times of India

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