“Imran, I am here only”, “I am Nuzhat, I am present here 24X7”, “Saad Abdullah, No NRC, No CAA no NPR” — these are among the placards left at the Park Circus Maidan in Kolkata, which has been central to the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests in West Bengal since January 7, 2020.
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Besides placards, there are dozens of pairs of shoes, scarves and dupattas kept at the ground, with the names of the people who have left them behind. On Wednesday afternoon, there were only five to six people left at the ground, including two elderly women on the stage with face masks, sitting a few meters apart.
“About five to seven people are at the ground every hour, including during the night. The police has allowed only this kind of crowd here,” Abid Rana Karim, one of the protesters, told The Hindu. The youth, who was taking a selfie, explained that the protest at the ground was now “symbolic”.
A chair next to the stage has the name of Asmat Jamil, a driving force behind the anti-CAA movement since it began here. Ms. Jamil said that it was a conscious decision on the part of organisers to keep placards, shoes and clothes.
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“What happened at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi will not happen in Kolkata. We are in full support of the lockdown but we will not allow the lockdown to bulldoze our protests. Once we are able to come out of the pandemic, we hope that we will resume the protests against the CAA,” said Nousheen Baba Khan, who has been associated with the protest from the start.
Ms. Khan said that it took several days and considerable persuasion on part of the organisers to convince people to leave the protest site. “It was the people themselves who decided to leave some of their belongings till they could come back and resume the protest,” she added.
Over the past three months, the Park Circus ground has been a major venue for anti-CAA protests to which people from different parts of the city and suburbs came. Joining them were politicians and social activists from different parts of the country. “We are continuing what has been going on for the past 70 days with the same spirit. Only our physical presence at the protest site has been limited to prevent the spread of the virus,” Mohammed Imran, a resident of Kolkata, said.
As the temperature soared in the afternoon, one of elderly women sitting on the stage decided to take a break. Before she stepped away, she, with the help of others present, she left a placard with her name in her stead, till she could return to resume the protest later.