A Quiet Revolution- the Fatima Sheikh-Savitribai Phule library at Shaheen Bagh
What was before a common bus stand, the roadside open library at Shaheen Bagh tries to bridge the gap between the protesters and the world of books.
A bespectacled man with a long beard, sitting on a block of concrete in the middle of a road, reading "My Experiments with Truth" against the backdrop of a protest that has nothing to do with Gandhi but maybe everything, isn't something that one gets to see every day. But you get to see that at Fatima Shiekh- Savitribhai Phule library, 50 metres away from the Shaheen Bagh protest site.
"For the first time in my life, I was witnessing women coming out of their houses to protest in large numbers. I had the privilege of studying at a central university, something that a lot of people who are protesting here don't have," said 25-year-old Mohammad Asif, one of the student organisers of the library.
The organisers soon came up with an idea of converting the Shaheen Bagh bus stand into an open library with books collected through social media and individual donors.
The library was opened on January 17 -- the fourth death anniversary of Rohith Vemula.
In the library, Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and Anne Frank's "The Diary of a Young Girl" were lying next to each other. Arundhati Roy's latest essay collection, "My Seditious Heart", Revathi's "A life in TransActivism"; a couple of introductions to the Indian Constitution, Urdu edition of Mahabharata, books on Gandhi, Nehru, Bhagat Singh, and even Isaac Asimov's sci-fi novels were available for the readers.
"We started with a measly collection of 25-30 books, now we have over 500 books that the protesters can choose from," beamed Asif. He told that social media was instrumental in collecting this large number of books from donors all over the country.
The organisers of the library said that they plan to run the library as long as the protest continues at Shaheen Bagh. But the plan is to convert the temporary set up into a permanent building and hand it over to the residents as their library.
A lot of people who had come to the protest trailed slowly past the length of the library, scanning through the titles of the book on the display. Some of them who stopped to read seemed to be cut off from the political speeches and sloganeering coming from the main protest site.
When asked whether the books get stolen, Asif chuckled and replied: "We are protesting to save the Constitution, but there is no one to protect the Constitution that we have here at our library from getting stolen. And there is no need for one either."