Much like the now iconic Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh women protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) at Ghanta Ghar, Lucknow is gaining strength and support with every passing day. In fact, it is infectiously spreading to other cities and women are leading the fight against what is widely perceived to be a highly divisive move by the Modi-Shah government at the centre, that is supported by the Yogi-led state of UP.
The protests at Ghanta Ghar, Lucknow started about a week back along the lines of the ongoing and unstoppable protests at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, where continuous sit-ins have been going on for over a month now. At Ghanta Ghar, heritage site and a Lucknow landmark, a few women started staging dharna in the same vein. Ghanta Ghar, in the old city of Lucknow, has now become the main destination for political leaders, social activists and media persons to throng and support the women who are at the forefront of these revolutionary sit-ins.
One can see thousands of women sitting at the peaceful dharna— raising slogans of azaadi and freedom from CAA-NRC—at the Ghanta Ghar, without bothering too much about shelter or protection from the chilly weather of the January winter.
Few days back, the UP police took away the blankets, shut off the lights and put locks in public toilets to in order to force women to vacate the place and end the protest. Instead the women are more determined and are continuing to protest though their blankets have been confiscated and the lights turned off at night. Their slogans rise against the “kambal chor” (blanket stealer).
CPM leader Subhashini Ali, former V-C of Lucknow, Roop Rekha Verma, Vandana Dixit and other activists have been visiting the protest site to boost the morale of the women involved in the dharna. Magsaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey is also regular visitor.
Significantly enough, social activist Sadaf Jafar, who was arrested on December 19 and became a victim of severe police harassment and illegal custodial violence, is also camping at the protest site. Another activist, Soab Ahmad, a lawyer who was arrested in connection with the December 19 protest, also reached Ghanta Ghar soon after his release from jail. A large number Sikhs are also to found at the protest site and have announced their support for the women in their protest against CAA.
The local police, however, have lodged FIR against 24 women and 135 unknown persons. Out of 24, two are daughters of famous Urdu poet, Munnawar Rana. Enthused by the success of Shaheen Bagh, Delhi and Ghanta Ghar at Lucknow, women’s protest is spreading to other cities also. At Azamgarh, women have launched dharna at the open space near Karbala maidan and are getting support from various sections of society.
Similarly, in politically sensitive Etawah too, women have been staging dharna at the Pachrahe crossing near the Red Cross office. More than 200 women with the National Flag and posters of Ambedkar, have been raising resistance slogans and they have the support of 700 men who were also present. The police resorted to lathi charge to clear the maidan and confiscated whatever clothes, blankets and utensils to cook food the women had brought for themselves.The police registered case against 12 named women and 200 unknown women and 700 men for violating Section 144.
Local Congress leaders condemned the brutal lathi charge on women, terming police action as murder of democracy where peaceful agitation was not allowed. In Lakhimpur district also, hundreds of women took out a rally to protest against CAA and confronted the local police.
Politically sensitive Rae Bareli also witnessed impressive protests by women against CAA. The women were carrying posters against CAA and NRC.
By arrangement with IPA