SHADAB ALAM BEGAN his day as usual on 24 February 2020. He woke up at his house in Old Mustafabad, in northeast Delhi, where he had been living for more than half a decade, and left by 10 am for Samrat Medical Store, on Wazirabad Road, near Brijpuri Chowk. He had worked at the pharmacy for many years, and it was his job to open it every morning.
The previous afternoon, the Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra had delivered an incendiary speech near the Jaffrabad metro station, a few kilometres away. Hundreds of women were staging a sit-in at the station to protest the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, passed last year by the Narendra Modi government, and the proposed National Register of Citizens. A wave of demonstrations against the CAA and NRC had swept Delhi and the country, led largely by Muslims who understood their place in the Indian republic to be threatened by the initiatives. The BJP and other Hindutva groups had vilified the protesters, and in numerous places the demonstrations were met with intimidation and violence. Mishra, with the deputy commissioner of police for northeast Delhi standing beside him, declared that if the Delhi Police did not clear the protests at Jaffrabad and neighbouring Chand Bagh, “we will have to come out on the street.”