When Winter Came, the Power of the People Blazed On

The brave protesters at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi have been on protest since Dec 15 after the brutal attack on Jamia students. They have been sitting in solidarity with the protest of the students and against the various steps that the central government threatens against citizenship criteria, like the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).

They have been at the site round the clock, putting up a struggle not just against the unjust laws but also against the elements. The mercury has been dipping precipitously in Delhi recently, touching record lows on Friday and Sat, Dec 27 and 28, in Delhi.

Yet as report after report shows, the protesters – among them a lot of women – continue to remain unmoved and indomitable in their spirit.

Some years ago when the Occupy movement was in full-swing, the approach of winter worried some of the “occupiers.” There were many schemes made on how to survive the winter, especially in North America, where temperatures plummet to well below zero and it starts snowing.

This was, ironically, also the hope of the authorities, who felt that winter would be the Waterloo of the protesters as they could not survive camping outside.

Yet, the occupiers saw the situation differently. As one report had it, they viewed the oncoming winter to be their “Valley Forge,” a reference to the US Revolutionary War where the soldiers under George Washington survived severely cold conditions.

Various strategies were considered by the occupiers. In one city, the “winterization committee,”  mulled over the various ideas, from  “try[ing] to obtain super-insulated sleeping bags and other winter survival gear….[to]… igloos.” Top academic institutions also chipped in to help find solutions to brave the winter, like “trying to find ways of putting heavy insulation on the ground — two inches of foam or more….”

Some occupy sites also built special structures, like geodesic domes, which, it was hoped would hold up to a winter storm and also insulate occupiers inside.

For a variety of reasons, from police action to safety issues, few occupy encampment lasted beyond the proper onset of winter. Yet, as long as the Occupy encampments were still standing when the cold started intensifying, those in solidarity with the movement regularly brought coffee and hot meals to share and support those out there expressing their dissent.

The important thing to everyone was the continuance of unbending resistance and the spirit of protest despite threats from the various administrative agencies – and the severe weather. Just like the protesters at Shaheen Bagh, men and women of all ages and economic backgrounds who comprised the occupiers, felt that they had to put their bodies on the line come what may to register unequivocally their displeasure with the current situation.

There were many during Occupy as in Shaheen Bagh who had never protested before, ever in their lives. But they also realized that the time had come when they could not stay mute spectators. They also showed the world the power of the people!

That minor hindrances like staying out in the open and putting up with the elements such as rain or severe cold was not going to dampen their spirits.

Such was the spirit demonstrated by this protester at Shaheen Bagh as reported in a leading daily: “‘I was running a slight temperature last night and had to take some medicine. But we don’t care if we fall ill or die or if police comes to beat us. We will not move from here unless the CAA is rolled back. We are here to save our Constitution,’ said Rizwana Bano, mother of three, a first-time protester who has been at Shaheen Bagh for two weeks now.”

Aviral Anand is a socially-concerned citizen of the world, currently based in Delhi. He believes in all kinds of solidarities with global struggles, such as the working class, indigenous and other marginalized peoples’ struggles around the world.


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