The Delhi Police on Tuesday forcibly cleared the Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest site while Delhi is under a lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19. The peaceful protest at Shaheen Bagh, against the Narendra Modi government’s divisive Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), had continued for over three months.
“We had requested the protesters to leave in the morning due to the coronavirus outbreak and the lockdown that has been imposed. They refused and action was taken. Violators have been detained and the site has been cleared,” DCP Southeast RP Meena was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
He also told PTI that nine people, including six women, were detained and taken to a nearby police station.
A volunteer present at the site told The Indian Express that only 8-10 women were present at the site on Tuesday morning. The volunteer also claimed that police removed the posters at the site and wheeled away the India Gate artwork.
However, PTI said about 50 protesters, including men, were at the venue when it was vacated—it is unclear whether they had gathered in support of the Shaheen Bagh protesters or not. A photo from ANI also showed a large number of people gathering near the site which was cleared by the police.
The Shaheen Bagh protest—which began after the Delhi Police’s brutal crackdown on Jamia students in December—was led by Muslim women and inspired several peaceful protests in other parts of the country. In the run-up to the Delhi assembly election, many BJP leaders including home minister Amit Shah targeted the women with hate speeches, seeking to polarise the electorate. This led to right-wingers firing bullets in the area as well.
Prakash Devi, a protester from Shaheen Bagh, told Hindustan Times that they were forcibly removed by the police. She said the police came on Monday night and asked them to clear the venue. “At around 3 am, there was a heavy mobilisation of police personnel. They locked some of the lanes. At around 5:30-6am, police came and forcibly evicted us,” she added.
Shaheen Bagh’s official Twitter handle also said the Delhi Police used “coercive force to dismantle the protest site” even though it had been scaled down to symbolic form considering COVID-19 precautions.
On Sunday, during the ‘janata curfew’, only five women were at the site while others had left their slippers as a symbol of solidarity.
The women were taking all precautions amid the coronavirus outbreak and sanitisers had been arranged at the venue to ensure utmost hygiene, a volunteer told PTI.
Protests at Jamia University and Jaffrabad have also been cleared. DCP (South) Atul Kumar Thakur confirmed to The Indian Express that “Hauz Rani protest site has been removed. No one arrested or detained.”
Several people on Twitter pointed out that the protest art on the walls of Jamia Millia Islamia University was also removed on Tuesday in haste—even as the city was under a lockdown to contain infection.
Delhi went into lockdown on Monday and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that only essential services will continue to operate.
Here are some photos from the Shaheen Bagh protest site today:
(With PTI inputs)