Delhi

Mediators continue talks with Shaheen Bagh protesters

Supreme Court-appointed interlocutors Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran continue their talks with women protesters of Shaheen Bagh, in New Delhi on February 20, 2020

Supreme Court-appointed interlocutors Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran continue their talks with women protesters of Shaheen Bagh, in New Delhi on February 20, 2020  

Interlocutor Sadhana Ramachandran tells the gathering that the issue of their right to protest is also before the apex court

Supreme Court-appointed interlocutors Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran on Thursday continued for the second day dialogue with the women protesters of Shaheen Bagh, who have been on a sit-in against the CAA-NRC-NPR regime since December 16.

Ms. Ramachandran told them that multiple issues and questions had been raised over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and that had been placed before the apex court. "They will be heard by the Supreme Court. But today, neither you nor us can tell what will happen to it. We do not know whether they will agree with you or the opposition, but the issue is before the court and all arguments will be heard," she said.  The issue of their right to protest was also before the court. "The court agrees that you have that right [to protest]. But the current petition for which we are here presently is about the closure of this road."

She asked the women if a solution could be reached. "Sanjay and I do not want you to get up from Shaheen Bagh. The protest will continue. But can we together come up with a solution that allows the demonstration to continue here in the same space, but while also allowing the public to use this road?"

This question was met with a negative response from the crowd.

A protester from the gathering questioned the delay in responding to the issue. "The Supreme Court has been listening to all the issues of the government, including the Ayodhya issue and the question of triple 'talaq'. Many people are bothered by this, so why are they taking so long to listen to our problems? It's such a simple complaint."

Ms. Ramachandran said that an environment of peace was needed to have a dialogue. She asked if women could come in groups to continue the conversation. "Conversations are not able to take place. It will be very difficult to come again tomorrow if things continue like this. We are not able to speak with peace. Both our time is being wasted this way. We can't hear anyone's voice. You will need to tell us how to do this".

Citing demonstrations like the Rath Yatra, the Jat and the Railway demonstrations that had taken a violent turn, the protesters said that they had been sitting at Shaheen Bagh peacefully and raising their demands. “Our protest here at Shaheen Bagh is a source of inspiration for similar protests across the country. We are not sitting here for our pleasure. We are here demand our right for citizenship,” a protester said.

“We were also questioned for bringing our children here,” another protester added. “But, we feel suffocated at our homes. We are scared and unsure about whether our citizenship will be taken away, whether we will be put in detention centres, whether we even have our papers,” the protester said.

Addressing the gathering, Sanjay Hegde said that there were lawyers from different religious backgrounds who were against this law and who would argue against it. “But a complaint was filed about this road and it is very easy for the court to direct the government to have this road cleared," he said. “The judge understands the fear here and your right to protest. If we can tell the Supreme Court that this issue [regarding the road] has been resolved peacefully, we can then raise bigger issues for them listen to us better," Mr. Hegde said. “You need to understand the value of time. If people sit on streets at different places, the country will not be able to run”.

Adding that Shaheen Bagh has has become an inspiration for several protesters in the country, Mr. Hegde asked what the effect would be if something bad was to happen here. “You are our inspiration and in a country where we listen to our women, this is the only way we move forward”, he said. “You are all your mothers, our daughters. You need to think and tell us how to move forward.”

‘Alternative routes’

Stating that they have been informed about alternative routes that can be opened, Ms Ramchandran said that the same will be examined. “We will go see the alternative routes. Do allow someone to come with us who can explain the geography of the area,” she said.

In response to this, a protester said that if they were made to go elsewhere, they would not be heard for another two years. “When the fight for independence took place, I'm sure roads were blocked. Due to the difficulties faced then and the mass movement that it led to, we are able to fight for our freedom today,” another protester added. “If people understand our issue, then they will understand our reasoning and instead of calling it an inconvenience, they will come and join us.”

Interlocutors then left the stage, informing the protesters alternative routes would be visited. 

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 2:13:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/court-appointed-interlocutor-continue-to-speak-to-protesters-at-shaheen-bagh/article30870826.ece

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