New Delhi: Protesters in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh were paid a surprise visit on Saturday morning by one of the Supreme Court-designated Interlocutors, Sadhana Ramachandran, on the fourth day of mediation. She was handed over a charter of demands.
The demands are:
On Friday, in a step forward to resolving the stand-off, both the Interlocutors -- Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran – had finally reached an agreement that one side of Road Number 13A (the arterial road that connect Noida, Delhi and Faridabad) would be re-opened if the protesters were given security assurance in writing.
This came after the Interlocutors appealed to the protestors to take decisions wisely, keeping their right to protest and commuters’ inconvenience in mind.
“We trust you that you don’t want to trouble anyone with your protest. We only want you to take a decision wisely so that your right to protest is protected but at the same time the rights of your fellow citizens are not violated,” Advocate Hegde told the protestors, seeking their opinion on opening the other carriageway of the road.
He said, “Sabse bada raasta dil ka raasta hai, use kholiye. Aap shuruaat kijiye, dekhiye kitne dil ke raste khulenge (you just not clear the road, make way to the hearts to others. Let’s start and see how several ways will open for you).”
The agitators, however, said: “It is not we who had blocked the other side. When we began the sit-in (on December 15, 2019), it was restricted to few metres of one side, which we are still occupying. The other side was blocked by the Delhi Police. After our protest was attacked by goons, we blocked other side as well. But we always ensured that school buses and ambulance pass without any hindrance.”
Expressing concern over their security, the protestors said: “If we are given written assurance that there won’t be any law and order situation and our safety and security will be guaranteed, we are ready to open one side of the road, which has nothing to do with our protest. We are victim and we feel others’ suffering. We are not here to create problems for anyone. Despite several provocations, we are exercising our right to dissent and we will continue to do the same,” they told the mediators.
The interlocutors then asked the Shaheen Bagh SHO whether roads could be opened and security can be provided to the protesters. When the SHO assured them that security would be provided, the protesters demanded a written assurance.
“We have to have a space to have our voices heard. We have been on the road for 70 days and yet they are not listening to us. Despite police presence, goons entered and opened fire. The Delhi Police was like our family members, but we don’t trust them anymore. It is the same police who barged in Jamia Millia Islamia library, beaten up students black and blue, blinded a student and did not even spare girls,” a woman protestor said.
The protestors prayed to the Supreme Court to pass a direction to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Commissioner of the Delhi Police to make security arrangements for them.
“We urge the court to pass a direction to the Home Ministry and the Delhi Police to make our security arrangements. And it is compromised and any untoward incident happens, we expect the court to hold everyone accountable from top to bottom — the Delhi Police Commissioner, the DCP (Deputy Commissioner of Police), the ACP (Assistant Commissioner of Police), the Station House Officer (SHO). They should be suspended,” the protestors put forth their demands.
Hegde responded by saying, “It is responsibility of the court and the police to ensure your safety and security and resolve your grievances. We will put it as it is before the court, which has sent us here to talk to you.”
The protestors poured their heart out while describing the sustained vilification campaign, series of objectionable comments made against them, and the government turning blind eye to their demands and attacks on them.
“Shaheen Bagh was called a mini Pakistan. Shaheen Bagh is not Pakistan, it is in India. We are Indians,” a protester said.
It may be recalled that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kapil Mishra had called the South East Delhi corner a “mini Pakistan” during the Delhi Assembly elections. “Pakistan has entered Shaheen Bagh. Mini Pakistans are being created in Delhi. The Indian law is not followed in areas like Shaheen Bagh, Chand Bagh and Inderlok. Pakistani hooligans have captured the streets of Delhi,” he had tweeted.
Another protestor said, “The government says we are worried about students' education but when those children reach universities, the government breaks their heads. We will die but our kids' lives are at stake. Our children are being beaten. They used to say about triple talaq that we are their sisters. Now they say these women are taking money. That’s their respect for sisters?"
The interlocutors suggested appealed to the protestors to forget the past and initiate a new beginning.
“What has happened has happened. Forget the past. Let's start a fresh. Hum aapke hit mein hain; Supreme Court aapke saath hai; hum sab Bharat ke nagrik hain; kisi ke saath koi bhed bhav nahin hoga (We are in your favour; the Supreme Court is with you; we all are Indian citizens; there will be no discrimination with anyone). All your woes will be resolved. We and Supreme Court are there to fight for you and protect your rights. Once the petitions against the CAA come up for hearing, all your grievances will be discussed. The constitutional validity of the legislation will tested by the apex court,” Hegde told them.
When the protestors raised the issue of blocking all alternate routes that could have been used for commuting between Noida, Delhi and Faridabad, the interlocutors said they also found the allegation to be true.
“We inspected all alternate routes and found it to be true that it (Noida-Faridabad) has been blocked by the police. We asked the police officials as to why they have blocked the roads. It has nothing to do with your protest, but it is still shut. We came to know in the morning that one road that connects Noida to Faridabad has been opened. But it was later blocked once again. We will take this matter to the Supreme Court,” said Ramachandran.
A woman protester said, “They (the police) opened the road for a short time this morning. I was returning from Noida with my husband. We were stopped at Kalindi Kunj. I told the police to let us go. They said the protesters have stopped the road. I told them I live at Shaheen Bagh. We have not asked for the road to be stopped.”
Alleging that Shaheen Bagh was being needlessly maligned, she said: “Policemen in plain clothes on the road have been stopping traffic. First they introduced themselves as protesters but when I insisted them to reveal their identities, they accepted that they are policemen and have orders from above.”
Another protestor asked:“Why are we being made the enemy? The Uttar Pradesh Police is standing in plainclothes saying road is blocked. The police are responsible for the problems that have happened. It’s the UP Police that are responsible for blocking the road from Noida,”
Before leaving, Hegde and Ramachandran told the demonstrators that their offer to open one side of the road and their demands and grievances would be conveyed to the court through a detailed report. “We will submit a report to the court. It is now for the judges to decide. Let the court take a decision. We don’t have any authority to take any action,” they concluded on Friday.