SC interlocutors examine alternative routes

On second day of dialogue, Shaheen Bagh protesters propose traffic solutions

February 21, 2020 01:51 am | Updated 01:51 am IST - New Delhi

New Delhi: Supreme Court appointed interlocutors - advocates Sanjay Hedge and Sadhana Ramachandran - during  their visit to Shaheen Bagh to initiate talks with the protesters demonstrating against Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens (NRC), in New Delhi, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. (PTI Photo)(PTI2_20_2020_000071B)

New Delhi: Supreme Court appointed interlocutors - advocates Sanjay Hedge and Sadhana Ramachandran - during their visit to Shaheen Bagh to initiate talks with the protesters demonstrating against Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens (NRC), in New Delhi, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. (PTI Photo)(PTI2_20_2020_000071B)

Supreme Court-appointed interlocutors on Thursday examined alternative routes that could be opened to get around the traffic blockade due to the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests at Shaheen Bagh in the Capital. On the second day of dialogue, senior lawyers Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran also requested demonstrators to meet them in smaller groups.

The interlocutors sought to make a distinction between the protesters’ objections to the CAA and the roadblock caused by the sit-in. While multiple protesters questioned why the Supreme Court hadn’t heard the challenge to the CAA yet and pronounced its verdict on the Act’s constitutionality, Mr. Hegde and Ms. Ramachandran assured them that all their arguments would be placed during the hearing in court.

Speaking to thousands of people gathered here from the makeshift stage at the protest site, Ms. Ramachandran explained that the court had also upheld their right to protest. “Sanjay and I don’t want you to get up from Shaheen Bagh. Shaheen Bagh will remain intact. But can we together come up with a solution so that demonstrations continue here in the same space but the public may also use the road, if that is possible?” she said.

The crowd voiced scepticism. “We are being heard here after 60-odd days of blocking this road. If we go somewhere else, we won’t be heard even if we sit for two years,” said one protester, which was met with loud applause.

‘Source of inspiration’

Another protester argued that the demonstrations at Shaheen Bagh were a source of inspiration for anti-CAA protests across the country. Mr. Hegde acknowledged the fact but cautioned that if something bad were to happen, it could affect other ongoing protests nationwide. The interlocutors also argued that had the Supreme Court so desired, it could have directed the government to clear the road; instead it chose to reach out through the mediators.

The commotion during the discussions prompted Ms. Ramachandran to propose that groups of 10-20 women meet the mediators one after another for a more meaningful dialogue, but several protesters didn’t warm up to the idea.

90-minute interaction

On the protesters’ suggestion, the mediators, following the 90-minute interaction, decided to examine alternative routes near Kalindi Kunj and Faridabad that could be opened in order to reduce traffic congestion. Two volunteers from the site accompanied Mr. Hegde and Ms. Ramachandran to show them the options. The duo is expected to return on Friday to continue talks.

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