The anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protesters, who were called anarchist, canned and suppressed by the State Government for carrying out rallies, and holding protests against the controversial law have turned lifesavers in Madhya Pradesh during the lockdown.
Risking their lives, these anti-CAA protesters have been turning the tide against all odds to feed the least advantaged in the fight against the pandemic.
These COVID-19 fighters have been feeding more than three lakh people each day either on their expense or through crowdfunding since the lockdown was imposed.
Although, the voice of dissent against the CAA was raised in more than a dozen of districts of the state, in five major districts -- Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Ujjain, Chhindawara and Seoni -- the protesters were on indefinite strike for months.
Nevertheless, after the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 as a pandemic and the Centre imposed lockdown across the country, they (anti-CAA protesters) called off their strikes in their respective areas and channelised their resources to feed the people.
By forming small groups in their localities with the help of local youths and NGOs, they have established kitchens in area and ensured that no one sleeps hungry and get deprived of medical aid if needed.
"Just like doctors, medical staffs and cops, who are on the forefront of the fight against the pandemic, they too, were staying in a rented rooms/hotels/friend's place, marriage halls, far from their families and tirelessly working shoulder to shoulder with the district administrations and putting a tough fight against hunger in the lockdown," said Vijay Kumar, one of the main people behind the anti-CAA protest in the state.
Since they know their localities and the people very well, they are helping medical staffs and cops to conduct hassle-free screening in the area. "After the incidents of attack on medical staffs and cops poured in, they are volunteering the medical team to each home, advising the residence to cooperate the medical team in conducting the screening," Kumar added.
While Abid Khan, another anti-CAA protester in the state feels that most of the agitators are literate people, and they know what is right for the country. "So, when the lockdown imposed due to the COVID-19, they called off the protest and formed small groups in their localities and begun helping the needy on their own."
"Since the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the state and till than 1,771 cases have been reported and more than 80 people have died as a responsible citizen we must help administration and medical teams to fight against it. I think, the anti-CAA protesters are doing it all," Abid added.
Addressing the media, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also applauded the selfless efforts of social help groups, who have been helping and feeding the people in the lockdown, recently.
India's cleanest city which had witnessed extensive protest against the CAA has reported more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases with 57 deaths till date. The city has fourth highest cases after Ahmadabad, Delhi and Mumbai in the country.
In such a high risk, the anti-CAA protesters are distributing ration kits to more than 500 families each day which can feed a family of five for around a week.
"We have created small groups to help people and distribute ration kits in major parts of the city including Chandan Nagar, Khajrana, Garib Nawaz basti, Rani pura, Azad Nagar and other places depending on the requirement. Each kit has 50 kg flour, 5 kg rice, 3 kg cooking oil, 2 kg pulses, 1 kg sugar, 2 kg potato, etc," said Razi Qadri, member of self-help group and anti-CAA protester.
His group has a pass of 15 members and two loading vehicles which to and fro in the entire city.
"After the attack on police personnel and doctors in some parts of Indore, we deployed one of our group members in each area to volunteer the team and avoid such incidents. Such attacks are unfortunate," Sayyed Nazim Ali.
He further said, "We don't know how much longer it's going to last, but, as we were embarked on for the long battle to protest against the CAA law, we are ready for a long fight against the COVID-19 and we will win."
Just like them, many of the NGO and self-help groups came forward to help the needy and working shoulder to shoulder with the district admin. "We have to stand together against this pandemic, we will sort out our difference with the Government once we defeat Corona," said Zayed Pathan, another member of the group.
The capital city of Madhya Pradesh had witnessed some of the biggest anti-CAA protests, rallies and people were on indefinite strike since December 2019 at the historic Iqbal Maidan of the walled city.
After four weeks of lockdown, the city has more than 300 cases of pandemic and eight deaths have been reported to date. And the daily wage workers facing hardship to feed their family. Recently, a man committed suicide due to hunger in Bhopal.
To help such families, more than 50 kitchens including 2-3 for kids have been running round the clock in the various parts of the city.
"These kitchens have been feeding more than 25,000 families each day," said Javed Beg, a former BJP leader and one of the main organisers of the anti-CAA protester in Bhopal.
"We have distributed the areas according to the nearness and feeding people. Most of these are kitchens run by the protesters," he added.
However, as the cases of COVID-19 outgrow in Bhopal, district administration shut all the kitchens to reduce footfall on the roads and asked Bhopal Municipal Corporation to meet the demand.
"The admin, however, forced to reopen the kitchen as the news of hunger and starvation reported by the media in the city. Now, various NGOs, social groups are feeding lakhs of people each day in the state capital," said Seema Karup of Jansampark Bhopal Group.
Jansampark Bhopal is a bunch of anti-CAA protesters who had been on indefinite strike against the law in the state capital.
Just like Indore and Bhopal which accounted for 80 per cent of the COVID-19 cases in Madhya Pradesh, the anti-CAA protesters of Jabalpur, Ujjain, Seoni and Chhindawar have also been helping the needy.
Commenting over the issue, social activist Rajendra Kothari said, "Instead of helping and feeding the needy, they could have been sleeping in their cosy beds, spending time with their families and stay indoors just like others in this scratching summer days, but, they chose to help others by putting their lives on risk. This is incredible and they are making the change in society."
"The country needs such dedicated people in such difficult times," he added.