Non-Protest Side of Shaheen Bagh Road Could be Opened: Mediators
Protesters have not blocked the Noida-Delhi road, and are willing for this to be done if police offer security.
Supreme Court-appointed mediators Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran issued a statement on the evening of Friday, 21 February, regarding the third day of their discussions with the protesters at Shaheen Bagh about moving the protests to an alternative site where no public place would be blocked.
“Today was the third day of our interaction with the protesters at Shaheen Bagh,” they said, observing that “Because we were at closer proximity with the protesters we could get a good sense of their anxiety, their pain, their fears particularly with regard to their security.”
The takeaway from the discussions is that the protesters have indicated a willingness for the non-protest side of the road – the road from Noida to Delhi, which the protesters have not occupied at any point of time – to be opened by the Delhi Police as a first step towards a resolution.
Although it was the Delhi Police and not the protesters who had blocked the non-protest side of the road, the protesters had come to feel that keeping this blocked might be better for their security – especially after the firing that took place there on the eve of the Delhi elections. Over the course of the discussions, however, the mediators found that:
“In principle the protesters were not fundamentally against opening of the non-protest side of the road if their security could be guaranteed in writing by the Delhi Police under suitable orders of the Supreme Court.”
Ramachandran and Hegde also stated that they had initially been enthused by the opening of the Noida-Faridabad road by the police on Friday morning, another of the roads that the police has closed in the area despite there being no protests on it. However, the road was barricaded by the police again after a short period of time.
“This was extremely distressing to us and we wish to emphasise that the action of re-barricading the roads defeats the very purpose of confidence building on the part of police,” they said.
One of the issues raised by the protesters and their supporters has been that while they have occupied one road, the Delhi Police has barricaded several other routes in the area, and this has been used to stoke resentment towards the protests at Shaheen Bagh.
The mediators thanked the protesters and organisers for ensuring the interactions proceeded smoothly, as well as the media, who had complied with their requests to exercise restraint in filming/reporting on the interactions. They also informed the media that they will not be meeting the protesters on Saturday.
“We will not be holding a public interaction tomorrow to enable the protesters to come to an independent conclusion as to the way forward,” they said, before adding that “We will return on Sunday only if we deem it necessary and feasible to do so.”
Next Hearing in Supreme Court on 24 February
Hegde and Ramachandran, senior lawyers who practice at the apex court, were appointed as interlocutors by the Supreme Court on Monday, 17 February, to speak with the protesters about moving their protest to an alternate site designated for such activities.
The bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph acknowledged that people have a fundamental right to protest against a law but noted that the blocking of public roads is a matter of concern and there has to be a balancing factor.
Hearing pleas asking for directions to end the ongoing protests at Shaheen Bagh against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the judges said they are concerned about the consequences of allowing protests to take over public roads, when there are certain areas earmarked for protests.
Despite this the court did not pass any interim orders for the reopening of the roads, and are looking to Hegde and Ramachandran to find some sort of resolution with the protesters.
The protesters, for their part, had said they’d be willing to speak to whomever the Supreme Court appointed, and had also expressed gratitude that someone representing the authorities had finally come to meet them.
The next hearing before the apex court is on 24 February, when the two mediators will be expected to inform the court of the progress they have made.
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.