Lucknow: It began with the Clock Tower in Lucknow and has now found an echo in Prayagraj, Varanasi, Etawah and Rampur.
The sit-in protests against the citizenship laws which began in Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, have caught on in a big way in Uttar Pradesh.
Last Friday, a group of about 15 women arrived at the Clock Tower with placards against CAA and NRC, hidden under their burqas, and began the protest. As soon as they took out the placards, traffic on the main road slowed down and within three hours, more than a hundred women had collected at the site.
The police took away their blankets and food packets, doused bonfires with water in a bid to deter their efforts. However, the women did not budge.
The number has been swelling with each passing day and the seven-day-old dharna shows no signs of ending.
After Clock Tower in Lucknow, it was the Mansoor Ali Khan Park in Prayagraj where women started a sit-in protest
What initially seemed to be a one-day protest has been continuing for five days now. More than 5,000 women, men and children are camping at the park, braving the freezing temperatures.
“Yes we have been inspired by Shaheen Bagh. If our sisters can protest there, we can do it here too,” said Renu Varma, a mother of three. Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh entered Day 39 on Thursday.
At the Mansoor Ali Khan Park, women can be seen listening to speeches made by student organizations from the Left and the Samajwadi Party while others are recording the events on their cell phones.
“I just want to say that we will be here for as long as required, till someone from the government speaks to us,” said Fatima, an octogenarian who has joined the protest.
The Jama Masjid in Rampur has also turned into a protest site with women assembling in large numbers.
In Etawah, on Wednesday, the cop chased and caned women who had started collecting in the Pachraha area to start a sit-in against the citizenship laws.
“The police did not let us protest yesterday but we will be planning and will do it again. Let us see how long they shoo us away,” said Arushi Yadav who is now painting anti-CAA posters.
Varanasi, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, faced fresh trouble on Thursday when scores of women tried to stage a protest at the Benia Bagh ground.
As soon as they spread a ‘durrie’ on the ground, the cops arrived on the scene and tried to dissuade the women from staging dharna. The women were unrelenting and as soon as the police tried to arrest the protesters, a mob standing close by started pelting stones at the cops.
Additional forces have been deployed in the area to prevent the protestors from returning.
The protests against the citizenship laws are now spreading to the rural areas as well. Ujariyagaon, a village on the outskirts of Lucknow, is also witnessing a protest, albeit smaller in size.
What is common in all these protest is that the women are inspired by the Shaheen Bagh protest.
Initially, the protests began with Muslim women but now Sikh men and women have joined in a big way. Hindu women are not only participating in the dharna but are also arranging for food and blankets for the other protestors.
At the Clock Tower, Sikh men have even set up a community kitchen for women and children.
While majority of the protesters may not understand the provisions of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), they insist that it will ruin the future of their children.
“If women are protesting in 32 cities, braving the freezing temperatures, there has to be a reason. Even if you want to believe that we are illiterate and are being misled, how do you explain that educated children form universities, IITs and IIMs are also staging protests?” asked Roshanara, a protester at Clock Tower in Lucknow, who has had much of a formal education.
The women are all the more determined to continue their protest after the ruling BJP alleged that they were being paid money to protest.
“Fine, we are being paid — so let us make some good money and continue with our protest. If these leaders also want money, they can send their women to protest with us,” said Ruchi Sahni, a young protestor at Clock Tower.