For a while on Friday evening, a narrow street in Washermanpet looked set to become Chennai’s own Shaheen Bagh. Hundreds of people, including women and children, turned up for a protest, fully intent on carrying it on for as long as they could. But all of them had to go home at night after the police denied them permission for a long-drawn protest, along the lines of the one in Delhi.
Around 4.30 p.m., people in the hundreds gathered in the narrow street in Washermanpet. A tent was in place and a huge poster declared it Chennaiyin Shaheen Bhag. A bunch of tiny tots held out roses to police personnel, and with an endearing smile requested them to grant permission to protest.
Over the next few hours, holding candles and flashing phones, hundreds of men, women and children gathered and registered their protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR).
Clad in a bright blue dress, nine-month-old Alisha Sara was perched on her father’s shoulder. With them was her four-year-old brother Wasif Ahmed. “I decided to bring my children because they are the future; this Act [CAA] will be detrimental to their lives. What will happen to my children,” asked Mohammed Ershad. Thirty-year-old Yasmin Umar Khan, who brought both her children, said that they would protest till the government revoked CAA. “My children should know and be aware of what is happening to their lives. People take cognizance of an issue and view it more seriously when they see even children actively participating in a protest. Our demand is that the discriminatory Act should be withdrawn at once,” she said.
Former IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan visited the spot and expressed solidarity with the protesters. Speaking to The Hindu , he said, “When I heard women are leading the protest against something which is against the Constitution, it is inspiring indeed. It is our duty to show solidarity and tell them we are here by their side.”
Thameem Ansari of Manidhaneya Jananayaka Katchi said, “Legislations are for the people and when the government can see people are extremely unhappy over CAA and NRC, it is only right that the Centre should immediately withdraw the law.”
Meanwhile, several men in white T-shirts that proclaimed ‘No CAA, NRC and NPR’ formed a human chain on one side, providing a sort of shield to those protesting, while ensuring smooth flow of traffic.
The protesters had come with plans to spend the night and continue their protests. But the police asked them to disperse after 9 p.m. “We had to discontinue the protest around 9.30 p.m as police spoke to us saying there will be traffic problems. We have asked for a venue for continuous protests,” said Ansari.