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How Shaheen Bagh lost the plot – editorials


Delhi police released Shaheen Bagh from protesters on Tuesday. Since mid-December, opponents of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and a possible National Register of Citizens have flocked to Shaheen Bagh, a corner that otherwise would not be visible in South Delhi. Shaheen Bagh was distinctive: the protest was led by Muslim women; it became a model for movements in other parts of the country; it ended up becoming the longest and possibly one of the most successful occupation movements worldwide in terms of drawing attention to its cause; and established the fact that a large segment of society was uncomfortable with government law.

But Shaheen Bagh lost the plot. This newspaper had called on protesters to withdraw the movement shortly after the Delhi elections, and to adopt other modes of struggle. The protest had made its point. And like any other civil society movement, it needed to judge when dividends had started to decline. The protest was only deepening the communal divide after one point; it was causing inconvenience to a large segment of Delhi residents; and it had become a potential site of violence.

The protesters decided to continue. That was his prerogative. But they displayed great irresponsibility when they continued even after the outbreak of coronavirus disease (Covid-19), and clear government advice to maintain social distancing and avoid large crowds. Shaheen Bagh protesters, at this time of national crisis, should have suspended the movement on their own, for their own well-being and for society in general. Although most of the protesters had left the site, some women remained, violating government protocols. Finally, the Delhi police had to intervene. In the process, the protesters gave up their moral ground, were insular, and lost the support and sympathy they had gained. Shaheen Bagh will become a lesson on how to move a movement, but also a lesson on when a movement should end.

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