Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh opens for trade — after a 5-month ‘lockdown’ | Delhi News


NEW DELHI: The streets of Shaheen Bagh bore a deserted look on Friday, two days after shops in the neighbourhood reopened following a gap of five months. The road, which was once a booming wholesale market, had been shut completely since December 16, when a small group of women came out of their homes and sat on the road to Kalindi Kunj to protest against the alleged police brutality on the students of Jamia Millia Islamia.
“Nearly 200 shops in the market have been shut for the past five months. Even by conservative estimates, traders have collectively suffered a loss of over Rs 200 crore. Traders in the country have lost hope after being closed for just two months of the lockdown,” said Rohit Sankhayan, secretary of the Shaheen Bagh Market Association.
The small group of women had come out of their homes shaken by the images of violence, resulting in a leaderless movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Hundreds of other women, including outsiders, had joined in, converting the site into a 24×7 sit-in protest, inspiring similar such ‘baghs’ all over the country. Even the Supreme Court had intervened in the issue, appointing special interlocutors to convince the women to open up the road as the vital stretch connected Delhi to Noida.
The size of the gathering had reduced to counter the spread of Covid-19, with only five women remaining under the tent in the last few days of its existence. Police removed all the protestors on March 24 after the lockdown was imposed. Since then, signs that the neighbourhood was once the centre of protests have been wiped off. Barring a huge wall mural of the iconic dadis, all slogans and have been whitewashed and banners removed.
However, it still appears that time has stood still at the Shaheen Bagh market. There are very few customers, most of the shops here still display their “winter collection”, having been unable to sell any of their wares since the protests forced the shops to shut mid-December.
According to Sankhayan, shops started reopening on odd-even basis after the Delhi government’s order for Lockdown 4.0. “We disinfected all the shops before opening them. Masks and sanitisers have been distributed to every owner and salesmen. But there are no buyers,” he said.
But shopkeepers have not lost all hope. “We suffered a loss of nearly 30 lakh because we could not sell any of the winter clothes. We don’t have any space to store the collection either, so we will have to dump them,” said Wasim Khan, the owner of a women’s clothing brand.
Khan believes that there was a “smear campaign” against the neighbourhood, which has made people uncomfortable with shopping in the area. “But we will continue our work,” he said.
Others point out that things will get better for the shopowners once border restrictions between states are lifted. “A lot of our shoppers came from Noida. Since there is a restriction on travel at the moment, we have not even seen 10% of the customers when compared with the period before the protests,” said Danish, another shop manager.

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