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A Shaheen Bagh in Kolkata’s Park Circus

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Kolkata Park Circus

Kolkata, Jan 17 : They clap in rhythm, shout “Azadi” slogans, cry “Halla Bol”, clench their fists in solidarity and display high spirits. The tri-colour is omnipresent, as are the faces covered with hizabs — this is City of Joy’s own version of Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh in Park Circus Maidan in south Kolkata, where primarily Muslim women have been on a sit-in against the CAA, NRC and NPR for 11 days now.

On January 7, taking a page out of the Shaheen Bagh protests that has been going on for over a month now, some women from the largely muslim-dominated neighbourhood of Park Circus descended on the local park expressing their anxiety, disappointment and anger over the goings on in the country.

They started the protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, a proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR) exercise, as also the “state repression on anti-CAA protesters in Uttar Pradesh”.

Their stock grew as the days passed. First their friends, families and acquaintances came, followed by women belonging to all societal strata from various areas of the city — be it Topsia, Ripon Street, Khiddirpore, Metiaburuz or Prinice Anwar Shah Road.

Top professionals like medicos, lawyers, teachers, professors, to those earning a living by cooking or washing utensils in others’ homes — everybody is joining in, and the numbers continue to go up every day.

“Tumhari lathi se tez hamari awaz hai” (our voice is stronger than your batons) says a poster, as the participants shout “Halla Bol, Halla Bol”.

There are hundreds of women wearing the hizab, who have come from conservative Muslim households, and are participating in a protest for the first time in their lives. They sit on spread out matresses, plastic sheets, blankets, durries and simple clothes they brought from their houses or offered to them by the volunteers.

NGOs, social groups and solitary individuals also arrive at the spot every day, bringing in tea, coffee, drinking water and even ‘haleem’, to keep the protesters going amid the dwindling temperature.

Asmat Jamil, a resident of Ripon Street who runs the NGO Azzumar, is considered the pivot of the protests. “It is a movement to claim our rights as citizens. It is a movement to show the power of people’s voices to the powers that be in Delhi,” she said.

Some of the demonstrators sleep under the open sky every night, while others make their daily trips to the venue after completing their household work or meeting their professional commitments. While a group of women have stayed put since the start of the protests, most faces change every couple of days, as people take turns in gathering for the protests.

“We have left our homes, schools, kids. Thousands of women have followed us. They have come out of their homes for their freedom,” said a burqa-clad woman in her 70s, pointing to the chants of “Azadi” (freedom).

“Look, not only do we demand scrapping of the CAA, NRC and NPR, we are also looking at the larger picture. Women here are also voicing their demand for freedom to move freely and fearlessly, the liberty to study, freedom to pursue their vocation and profession of choice and even the freedom to choose whom to marry,” she said.

A young woman — a teacher — joined in.

“Most of the people in this gathering are poor. Majority of them don’t have any papers to show. I am a teacher. I have seen the mothers of my students cry.

“I support my country, I support India. We don’t want to go on a troubled way, right? That’s why we should all come together,” she said.

Apart from the huge number of women, men are also there in strength, chanting slogans, singing songs of protests, waving the tri-colour and reading the Constitution. But they are not allowed into the main protest area, which is encircled by a plastic rope.

The Park Circus protests, after Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, has emerged a rallying point for the dissenters and the fiery young turks. From former student leader Umar Khalid, to Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav, and city’s very own balladeer Kabir Suman — the venue is drawing famous names daily.

But sitting around pictures of Mahatma Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar, the young and the old commoners are the soul of the Park Circus protests — determined to soldier on till at least January 22, when the court will hear the petitions moved against the CAA from all around India.

India

March to Shaheen Bagh postponed after talking to stakeholders: Delhi Police

Everyone agreed that they will stay peaceful and the protest will be postponed indefinitely,” said Southeast DCP amid Delhi violence.

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DCP RP Meena

Delhi Southeast DCP RP Meena informed that police received info through social media that people will come to Shaheen Bagh on March 01. “We had received info through social media that a large group of people will come to Shaheen Bagh from Madanpur Khadar on March 1.

We took it seriously, in light of the current situation. We came to know that locals will join in and carry out a peaceful protest. We called a meeting of Aman Committee at different locations today, then all the stakeholders were called here at the DCP office.

Everyone agreed that they will stay peaceful and the protest will be postponed indefinitely,” said Southeast DCP amid Delhi violence.

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India

Protecting interests of 130 crore Indians is our priority: Modi

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PM Modi

Prayagraj, Feb 29 : Prime Minister Narendra Modi said here on Saturday that be it the senior citizens, divyangs or tribals, Dalits, or those who have been exploited or deprived, protecting the interests of 130 crore Indians and serving them is the top priority of his government. He was speaking after distributing equipment to differently abled people at the parade ground.

In his address, Modi said, “During the time of earlier governments, such camps were very less and such mega camps were hardly held. In the last five years, our government held about 9,000 such camps in different areas of the country because it is our top priority to protect the interests of 130 crore Indians.”

He said, “If anyone persecutes or makes fun of the disabled, the rules related to this have also been strengthened. A special drive for recruitment of the disabled has been launched and reservation has been increased from three per cent to four per cent. In higher education institutions, reservation has been increased from three per cent to five per cent for admissions. Skill training has been given to two lakh. Participation of divyangs in every field is a must, whether industry or sports.”

The Prime Minister said, “Around 27,000 people have been given equipment today. Some got tricycles, some hearing aides and some got wheel chairs.”

He said coming to Prayagraj is like a pilgrimage and always helps generate purity and energy.

Modi said, “I remember, in February last year, it was around this time that I came here during the Kumbh. As your Pradhan Sevak, I have the opportunity to serve thousands of divyangs and elders. And this time, I have got the opportunity to serve senior citizens.”

He said, “I believe that these tools are aides of your high spirits. Your real strength is your patience and your capability.

“During the rule of the previous dispensation, equipment worth less than Rs 380 crore was distributed to the divyangs, while our government has distributed more than Rs 900 crore worth equipment. That is, about two and a half times more. In the last four-five years, hundreds of buildings in the country, more than 700 railway stations and airports have been made accessible to the divyangs. The remaining ones are also being made accessible to them.”

He added, “The rightful participation of every differently abled youth or child is essential in the creation of a new India. Whether it is industry, service sector or sports, the skills of the divyangs are constantly being encouraged. We are constantly working to reduce difficulties in the lives of the senior citizens.”

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India

Congress attacks Centre over economy

He also raised concerns about the manufacturing sector saying it is in the negative. “This section provides jobs, and such performances are dismal.

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Anand Sharma

New Delhi, Feb 29 : The Congress on Saturday attacked the Centre over its performance in the economic sector. Raising the quarterly three performance of this financial year, Congress leader Anand Sharma cornered the government.

“Q3 results are generally very strong…But this year’s result has been the lowest in the last seven years,” said Sharma. Raising concerns over the deteriorating GDP trend, he stressed on the nominal GDP, which he claimed should be much higher than it is as of today.

He also called the budget “directionless” and claimed that it did not provide any incentive to either the investors or the manufacturers. “We reject the government’s claims that the economy is showing signs of coming back on track,” Sharma said.

He also raised concerns about the manufacturing sector saying it is in the negative. “This section provides jobs, and such performances are dismal.

“India does not benefit from the FDI numbers which the government is throwing at us,” he said.

He cited the NSO data to suggest that the demand has decreased.

“If government will only write off loans of the corporates and remain dismissive of the poor, the government’s intent becomes clear,” said Sharma.

He went on to allege that the present government has “ruined Indian economy”

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