For the past 15 days, shopkeepers at Chatta Bazaar in Hyderabad’s Mirchowk who are mostly Muslims have been protesting in a unique way against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR). The shopkeepers are registering their protests by voluntarily turning off lights at their respective shops and halting business for 15 minutes
However, since Friday, the police are allegedly harassing the shopkeepers by threatening to arrest them under section 151 (arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offence) of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), if they continue the protest. Shopkeepers allege that the Mirchowk police have threatened them on two occasions- last Friday and Saturday.
At least 5,000 shopkeepers at Chatta Bazaar, who are into printing wedding cards, are participating in the protest since February 3. At 7.15 pm, the shopkeepers turn off the lights of their shops and protest on the road carrying placards against CAA, NRC and NPR.
Speaking to TNM, Affan Qadri, an activist alleged, “It has come to our notice that the police are harassing the shopkeepers for the protest. They claim that the police have threatened to arrest them under 151 of the CrPc. This harassment is unbecoming of the police.”
Another shopkeeper on the condition of anonymity alleged that the police are mainly targeting small traders. “There are 5,000 shopkeepers in the bazaar, but they are only making these threats to the small shopkeepers, who are vulnerable. Police want us to discontinue our protest so that it doesn't spread to other parts of the city,” he alleged.
Ali Bin Saleh Lahmadi, a shopkeeper, who is actively involved in the protest said that no leader is behind the protest and that they have been observing it voluntarily. “Police are harassing us for the past two days. How can they harass us if we are not causing any problems? Ours is a peaceful protest. We are voluntarily closing our business for 15 minutes, then on what grounds can police coerce them to not protest?” he asked.
However, Mirchowk Station House Officer, V Anand Kishore denied the allegations of harassing the protestors.