The violence in Washermanpet late on February 14 might just have created a Shaheen Bagh-like situation in Chennai where hundreds of women began an indefinite protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) on Saturday.
The Lala Gunda locality in Old Washermanpet is famous for its butter biscuit manufacturing units. Two of its narrow alleys — Sajja Munusamy Street and Aziz Mohamed Street — have been packed with more than 3,000 women and children, wearing anti-CAA and NRC bandanas and chanting anti-CAA and azadi slogans.
Black flags atop buildings indicate the protest site. On February 14 night, there was commotion in the locality after a scuffle broke out between the protesters and the police . More than 140 people were detained. Condemning police high-handedness, protests by Islamic outfits erupted across the State .
Women take the lead
However, a group of women and men in Lala Gunda area continued their protests. “If women think, they can bring about any change. The CAA and NRC have triggered the sentiments of women as the future of our children is at stake. Hence we all stepped out on to the streets,” said Kathija Beevi of National Women’s Front, an NGO working for the education and uplift of Muslim women.
Claiming that the women were not backed by any political party, the protesters said they were inspired by the protests at Shaheen Bagh which had been going on despite attempts to forcibly stop it. Nida Sabreen, a student who is part of the protest, said that women were not allowed to come out of their homes for decades.
“Now the women, from all religions, have come forward and we have taken charge to fight for our justice. Our men are protecting us. Our voice is in the forefront over here. This is just a beginning for women to raise their voice for their rights,” she said.
Parveen, 48, said that till now women in the locality had not been involved themselves in any protests. “We are not even supposed to speak to men directly. Now, we have stepped out for the future of our children. This is a beginning and we will fight for all social issues,” she said.
Ms. Beevi said once the schools reopen on Monday, the women would finish their household work and return to the protest. “Our aim is to ensure that the draconian CAA, which discriminates, should not be forced upon us,” she said.
Ashimina Banu, another protester, said the protest would continue until the State government assured them that it would not implement CAA, NRC and NPR.
To show solidarity, many political leaders, including TNCC president K.S. Alagiri, CPI veteran Tha. Pandian, and CPI(M) MP T.K. Rangarajan came to the venue.
B. Abdul Samadhu, general secretary, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, said: “Whatever repression unleashed on us, we will not budge and will continue our agitation until our goal is achieved. The State government should pass a resolution in this session of Assembly itself against the CAA.”
The protesters also brought the body of Fasiluz Haq, 70, who reportedly died due to shock during the protests. Police refuted that, saying he had been ailing for a while. They performed prayers and took away the body for burial.
A group of people, including students of Jamia Millia Islamia, held a demonstration near Tamil Nadu House in Delhi on Saturday, protesting against lathicharge by the Chennai police on anti-CAA demonstrators.