Shut Since December, Businesses Around Shaheen Bagh Protest Site Face Losses

Kusum Tewari

New Delhi: Commercial showrooms and retail outlets in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh have faced losses approximating to Rs 150 crore ever since the a sit-in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register for Citizens (NRC) began there in December last year.

Market association members of the area claim that close to 250 of these outlets have been shut for the last two and a half months now and approximately 3,000 workers have been affected in the area, with most losing their jobs.

A senior member of the market association who did not want to be identified, in a conversation with News18 said, “We would like to meet the interlocutors, but in person. The entire market has faced a loss of about Rs 150 crore. We support the anti-CAA protest but this is affecting all the shop owners and their workers.”

He further informed that they have tried to negotiate with the protestors, but to no avail.

“This is a fight between the protesters and the government, but we are bearing the brunt. All we want is that someone should also think about us and the protesters should be shifted to somewhere else,” he added.

The commercial outlets include that of garments, sports utilities and other branded retail stores.

Shaheen Bagh has been the flashpoint of anti-CAA protests and was bone of contention between political parties during the Delhi elections recently.

Kashif, a resident of Bihar, is among those who were affected by the protest. He had setup his business of interior designing products in Shaheen Bagh just before the protests began there in December.

“I had to close down the shop within days of its inauguration,” he said.

He has not been able to pay his house and shop rent since the last two and a half months. “There are three helpers working in my shop. I am paying them small amounts so that they can bear their daily expenses,” he added.

Shabbir Ahmad, 35, has a similar story. Store manager in one of the showrooms, he earlier earned Rs 20,000-25,000 every month. “I have been at home since almost three months now. I haven’t earned a single penny ever since,” he said.

His daily expenses are being borne by his friends.

“CAA and NRC matters are in Supreme Court. Everyone should respect the words of the Apex court and should shift the protest to somewhere else. I support anti-CAA protests but not at the cost of my living and now our condition is getting worse day by day,” Shabbir said.

Shaheen Bagh protesters told the Supreme Court-appointed interlocutors on Friday that if the road parallel to the protest site is opened, the court should pass an order ensuring their security.

“When several adjoining roads are open, why are they insisting that we move from this road? This is not the only road connecting Delhi to Noida,” a woman, who is on a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, told senior lawyers Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran on the third day of discussions. “We keep hearing about the inconvenience to people but no one asks about our inconvenience here,” said another protester.

For 21-year-old Harpreet Kumar, working as a salesman in one of the retail outlets, Shaheen Bagh protest has meant joblessness along with a ticket back home.

He was fired on 17 January because the firm was unable to sustain costs. He had to get back to his village in Rai Bareilly district and is currently looking for a new job. His father, who is a farmer, is the only earning member in his family of five members.

“Shut down of showrooms because of the protest shouldn’t have been happened because this has affected the life of many workers like me,” said Harpreet.

Meanwhile, protesters at Shaheen Bagh acknowledged the problem but also expressed their helplessness.

Hilal Madni, one of the protesters, said, “We all are concerned about the job loss of the workers and we have sympathy for them but when it comes to preserve the right of 135 crore people, then the interest of 200 people can be sacrificed. Job loss is a small issue but snatching of citizenship of people is a much bigger concern. We are saving the constitution of India.”

He has not met the owners of the showroom and the workers. He said, “They must be supporting us, otherwise they would have opened their shops or would have filed petition against the protest.”

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