Shaheen Bagh, the protest site against India’s citizenship law, evolves into Delhi’s latest culinary destination | Food

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String lights illuminate the streets and the scent of barbecue fills the air as night falls on Chaalis Futta Road in the Shaheen Bagh neighborhood of Delhi. The bustling market area is packed with people gathering for iftar, the meal to break their fast during Ramadan. The lively atmosphere continues throughout the night until suhoor, the pre-dawn meal before fasting begins.

In the winter of 2019-20, Shaheen Bagh gained global attention when residents, mainly women, staged a sit-in on a nearby highway to protest the Citizenship Amendment Act. This law, which was implemented in December 2019, aimed to expedite the naturalization process for non-Muslim refugees from neighboring countries. The protesters called for the repeal of the law, citing discrimination against Muslims and a violation of India’s secular principles.

Though the protest ended due to the coronavirus pandemic, it left a lasting impact on the neighborhood, now known for its delicious street food. Chaalis Futta Road, once a mix of shops and restaurants, has evolved into a food hub offering a variety of cuisines, from traditional Mughlai dishes to Arab, Afghan, Turkish, and Italian fare.

With the rise of popular food reels on social media, Shaheen Bagh has become a destination for food enthusiasts seeking authentic flavors. Established eateries like Javed Famous Nihari, Zehra Biryani, Aslam Butter Chicken, Karim’s, and Qureshi Kabab have opened branches in the area in recent years, attracting both locals and tourists in search of culinary delights.

Mohammad Danish, owner of House of Delhicious, one of the oldest restaurants in the area, notes that Shaheen Bagh has emerged as a prominent food market in the last few years, drawing attention away from traditional iftar spots like the historic Jama Masjid. The sense of community and connection fostered by the protest lingers in the air, bringing people together over shared meals and shared experiences in this vibrant neighborhood.

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