The Supreme Court has picked two senior lawyers to speak to protesters who have been on a squatting protest for two months against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh. Senior advocates Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran will meet the demonstrators and try to persuade them to continue their agitation, if they must, at another location for the convenience of commuters. Former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah will mediate in the task.
“Right to protest is a fundamental right. What is the alternative area they can continue the protests without blocking the road?” the Supreme Court said. The Delhi Police counsel replied, “They can choose a place.”
Hundreds of people have camped on a stretch of road in Shaheen Bagh in south-eastern Delhi for over two months. The police-installed barricades around Shaheen Bagh have made commuters’ route to offices and homes longer. Some businesses are running into major losses due to the blockade, they have complained to the government.
The Supreme Court said, “There are lines and boundaries. You want to protest. No problem. But tomorrow another section of society may hold protests in another area… There must be some method so that traffic flow is free. Our concern is if everyone starts blocking roads, where will people go?”
The Supreme Court told the lawyer, who represented the activists, that they could continue their agitation, but not on the road that a large number of people use every day. “Give us some time. We will do it,” the lawyer said.
On behalf of the government of Delhi, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the authorities do not want to pursue the issue in the apprehension of escalating it.
After Delhi Police accused the protesters, mostly women, were “keeping children in the front as a shield” the apex court thought of mediators to end the imbroglio.
The Supreme Court said, “We want to solve this issue. If nothing works out, we will leave it to the authorities. But we are hopeful for a solution.”
The protesters had said last week they wanted to meet Home Minister Amit Shah after the latter had said on a television channel that he was open for talks for the next three days. The Ministry of Home Affairs, however, never received an application from them for an appointment.
However, they had no idea that an appointment was needed to meet the minister and that a mob could not march all the way from Shaheen Bagh to meet Shah but they required to select some representatives to talk on their behalf.
The police stopped the demonstrators as they marched towards Shah’s residence and asked whether they had an appointment. They said they didn’t and then they had to retreat.