Amna Begum, a middle-aged housewife, woke up extra early on January 26 to participate in the protest at Shaheen Bagh. With vigour, she said, "People always say we are not nationalists. Whoever thinks Muslims are not patriotic should come to Shaheen Bagh today and count the number of tirangas that have been hoisted.”
Amna brought her three children along with her. As she spoke to this correspondent, they jumped in excitement around her.
The celebrations started early on Sunday morning with the hoisting of the national flag on a cutout of India Gate. Three elderly women, referred to as the "Dadis of Shaheen Bagh" who have been spearheading the protest, and Radhika Vemula, Rohith Vemula's mother, hoisted the tiranga.
The India Gate constructed here bears the names of those who died in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.
Samia Imran Ansari, a schoolgirl, came to watch the tricolour being hoisted. “I have always seen flag hoistings on TV,” she said. “For the first time, I have witnessed such a huge gathering with my own eyes. Everybody is celebrating here, even while protesting. Lots of people are holding the national flag and singing songs of nationalism."
As she spoke, the song Sandese aate hain from the movie Border was being sung in the background. Samia broke off to join the group and sing along with them.
After the flag hoisting, the national anthem was sung. MA Khan, who came all the way from Chattarpur to witness the Republic Day celebrations at Shaheen Bagh, told Newslaundry that Vande Mataram was sung later too.
Khan says, "Since morning, we have celebrated Republic Day in its true spirit. I feel that very good, actual celebrations are going on here. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs — all are here today. They have tried to create rifts between our different communities but our brotherhood has always won.”