COVID scare: Delhi police request Shaheen Bagh protesters to vacate area

Protesters stayed put at Shaheen Bagh even though the Delhi government announced that any gathering of over 50 people will not be permitted

Shaheen Bagh
An elderly anti-CAA protester gestures while speaking to the interlocutors at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh | PTI Photo

Delhi police, officials from the southeast district administration, and resident welfare association members met with the protesters at Shaheen Bagh and requested them to call off the protests in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

This move comes after hundreds of people stayed put at Shaheen Bagh, even though the Delhi government announced that any gathering of over 50 people will not be permitted until the end of March.

Young men and college students took turns to address the gathering, including women and children. Poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz were recited, and slogans of revolution and unity in diversity reverberated at the women-led sit-in against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, National Register of Citizens and National Population Register.

Seema, a Shaheen Bagh local, said instead of asking the protesters to end their sit-in, the governments in Delhi and at the Centre should have sent them face masks and hand sanitisers. “But they haven’t done anything for us and only want to divert from the main issue, which is CAA,” she added.

Kaneez Fatima, who claims to be a regular at the site since Day 1, said if the government was so concerned about safety and well being, it should withdraw the contentious CAA, adding that “we will call off the protest immediately”.

Another woman, who wished not to be identified, said their protest would continue even if takes them to sit in groups of 50 people, something the Delhi government directed on Monday. “There is enough space for people to sit in groups of 50 and another group of 50 would sit at some distance and further on,” the woman told PTI.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had on Monday (March 16) announced that any gathering – religious, family, social, political or cultural – of over 50 people will not be allowed in the national capital till March 31 in view of the coronavirus outbreak.

Operations of all weekly markets in the city have been suspended and shopping malls directed to make available sanitisers at entrances as well as stores.

The chief minister indicated that the ban on gatherings will also cover protests at Shaheen Bagh and outside Jamia Millia Islamia.

(With inputs from agencies)