Finally Someone’s Come to Hear us: Shaheen Bagh on Dialogue Day 1

The mood at Shaheen Bagh on day 1 of dialogue with SC’s mediation team was filled with emotions and defiance.

4 min read

Video Editor: Vivek Gupta

“Finally, someone’s here to talk to us.”

Fathima breaks down as she furiously claps and cheers for the guests taking the stage at Shaheen Bagh on Wednesday, 19 February. Fathima, who boasts of “devoting equal time to her marriage, her studies and the protest”, says:

“Shaheen Bagh has taught me to be defiant with love. We welcome anyone who wants to at least listen to our woes.”

In the house was the mediating team appointed by the Supreme Court – senior advocates Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran.


‘We Will Find Such a Solution That Sets an Example For All of India’

"The Supreme Court has upheld your right to protest. But other citizens also have their rights and those should also be maintained," Sadhana Ramachandran said as she explained the 17 December Supreme Court order to the scores of women staging a sit-in protest against the CAA at Shaheen Bagh for over two months.

“We will find a resolution that will set an example for the rest of India. We will listen to everyone here. We will together find a way ahead.”
Sadhana Ramachandran

“But madam, we have only closed 150 metres of the road. The rest of the road that you say are causing the inconvenience to commuters have been closed by the Delhi Police. Why don’t you ask them to open the roads first?” asked one of the dadis who have been unflinching in their attendance to this protest since December.

She continued, “We always let ambulances and school buses pass through this road. How are we causing inconvenience then?”

The mood at Shaheen Bagh on day 1 of dialogue with SC’s mediation team was filled with emotions and defiance.

‘Democracies Don’t Run on My Way or the Highway Rule’

Among the several feisty women who echoed their defiance to the interlocutors, two young voices stood out and were praised for eloquence even by Hegde.

Neither mentioned their name on the mic. “We are here to speak to you as Muslims who have been born and brought up in India, whose forefathers had rejected the idea of Pakistan and embraced Hindustan during Partition. How dare anyone question our identity?” one of the two young women told Hegde and Ramachandran.

“Democracies cannot run on the ‘My way or the highway’ principle. Amit Shah says the government won’t roll back CAA. That is why I am thankful to the court that by appointing a mediation team, they have at least sent a message to Amit Shah that problems can only be resolved through dialogue.”

She continued, “The inconvenience angle is being purposely blown out of proportion to create a false narrative against us. The government has forced us to come out on the streets by bringing in a divisive act. “

“We have been sitting here on the streets for the past two months to save that one Constitution that is dear to us more than anything. Does the government want to take that right from us too?”

After she concluded, Hegde complimented her for an eloquent speech and said, “Till the time our country has daughters like you who are safeguarding the Constitution, India will never cease to be free.”

‘Just Because I Dress Differently, Am I a Terrorist?’

Another young lady also addressed the mediators. She began, “The government has constantly run a vilification campaign against us through speeches and their media mouthpieces. They have constantly 'othered' us because of our clothes, our food. Just because I am dressed differently, am I a terrorist?”

“We have been ‘othered’ so much that the government does not even think that they can come and talk to us. The Supreme Court has to send someone to listen to our problems. You have forced us to come out on the streets by bringing in a divisive act. Don’t you care about our inconvenience?”

On Monday, the Supreme Court observed that the blockade of the road at Shaheen Bagh was "troubling" and suggested the protesters go to another site where no public place would be blocked. It, however, upheld their right to protest.

The apex court also asked Hegde to "play a constructive role as an interlocutor" to persuade the protesters to move to an alternative site. It said the interlocutors could seek Habibullah's assistance. The sit-in, which has been going on since 16 December, has blocked a critical arterial road connecting Delhi and Noida, causing trouble to commuters and schoolchildren.


'Met a Whole Lot of Proud Indians’: Hegde, Ramachandran After a ‘Fruitful’ Meeting With Protesters

Hours after the meeting, the two senior advocates said, “We have had a very fruitful first meeting with the protesters at Shaheen Bagh today. We met a whole lot of very proud Indians who have great confidence in their Constitutional institutions. There was great appreciation of the Supreme Court and its important belief in democratic dialogue.”

“It is very important for aggrieved parties to be heard is how we saw it and everyone expressed their confidence as joint co-citizens of this country that together we can find a feasible solution. Mutual appreciation and respect of everyone’s rights is the only way forward in this country and we both remain extremely hopeful of a good resolution.”

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