New Delhi: As the Delhi High Court directed the police to look into the grievances regarding the blockade of Sarita Vihar-Noida Highway by anti-CAA [Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019] protesters at Shaheen Bagh in “accordance with law” and “keeping in mind larger public interest and maintenance of law and order”, hundreds of agitators, including women, men and children, thronged the agitation venue to ensure that cops do not forcibly evict people.
In his writ petition, Advocate Amit Singh had prayed to the court to issue in nature of mandamus or any other writ of the same nature thereby passing order or direction to the police, directing them to withdraw the closure of Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch (i.e. road number 13A), which has been blocked since December 15, 2019.
Hearing arguments forwarded by the petitioner and counsels for the respondents, a division bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar ordered, “We hereby direct the concerned respondent authorities (Commissioner of Police, Deputy Commissioner of Police of Legal Cell at Police Headquarters, Deputy Commissioner of Police of Southeast district, Assistant Commissioner of Police at New Friends Colony, Shaheen Bagh Station House Officer) to look into the grievances ventilated by the petitioner in accordance with law, rules, regulations and government policies applicable to the facts of the present case.”
The court also directed the concerned respondent authorities to keep in mind the “larger public interest as well as the maintenance of law and order”.
Rejecting the plea to issue a writ in the nature of mandamus and order or direction, the bench said, “In such a situation, no specific writ, order or direction can be issued by this court as to how to handle the agitation or protest or the place of protest and traffic. It all depends on the ground reality and the wisdom of the police where the situation keeps changing every 10 minutes.”
As soon as the news flashed on TV screen, people in the neighbourhood of Shaheen Bagh made announcements, appealing to the people to gather at the protest site as they feared that the police will try to remove the protesters. Shopkeepers pulled down shutters; men, women and children were seen rushing towards the protest site. In no time, the crowd swelled, with people chanting slogans against the government, CAA, National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC).
The protesters are not ready to leave the place until any of the government representative visit them with assurance that the controversial legislation and notifications will be rolled back.
“The petitioner is so concerned about the commuters’ inconvenience, but what about us? Let me tell you that the residents of this locality and all those who have been agitating are also facing troubles. We too have offices to attend, children who go to schools and other business commitments. But this fight is for a larger cause. Our identity as Indians is facing crisis. The CAA combined with NRIC is a threat to our existence. But nobody is ready to listen to us. Instead of reaching out to us, the arrogant government is saying that it will not move even an inch from its decision. It is indirectly issuing threats to us through its cronies. We also want to tell them that we will fight back with full strength. It’s a do or die fight. If the police try to evict us, they will do it at the cost of our lives,” a visibly agitated protester told NewsClick.
His sentiments were echoed by another protester who questioned where the petitioners were when the students from Jamia Millia Islamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) were brutalised by the police and the “goons” of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.
“Several mothers lost their loved ones across the country in the police firing on protesters, but you [the petitioners] chose to keep mum for obvious reasons. You did not approach the court against gross human rights violations against the people in Assam who faced and are facing hardships in the NRC updating process and proving that they are bona fide Indians. Now, when we are protesting peacefully, you suddenly woke up to pray to the court to issue direction to remove us? Let me tell you we will also not move even an inch,” she said.
Shaheen Bagh SHO Vijay Pal on January 13 had urged the protesters from their stage to lift blockade from the other carriageway of the road. He said that schools have been opened and it is becoming difficult for the parents to send their children to the schools as buses are unable to pass through the area.
The protesters said they are ready to do that, but “the police need to give us in writing that the agitators will be given full security”.
“Initially, we had not blocked the other side of the road. It was cops who had done it. Now, if they want to do so, they should deploy forces on the divider and assure us that nothing will happen. If the traffic starts and someone pelts stones or does something unwanted to scuttle our protest, there will be retaliation. Then who will take responsibility?” asked one of the organisers.
He said there is a consensus that school buses will be given an alternate route from inside Shaheen Bagh and smooth passage will be ensured, but there is no question of evicting the main road.
“If the police use force, it will lead to confrontation which we don’t want at all,” he added.
If the government is trying to scare us—many of the protesters said—they are mistaken. “All these tactics won’t work,” they said.
“It’s not a fight of an individual or a particular community. It’s a fight of everyone—Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Parsis, as all of them have to first prove their citizenship. The CAA will come later for their rescue,” they said.
One of them said it has become a new normal that whosoever questions the government and criticises its faulty policies, he or she is branded as a “traitor” or “anti-national”. “They hate educated people who talk about the rights of the farmers, Dalits, Muslims and adivasis and call them ‘urban Naxals’. They are scared of students and therefore call them ‘tukde tukde gang’. What they appreciate or endorse is calls for violence and slogans such as 'desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maro saalon ko' (shoot the traitors). We respond to such violent and hateful slogans and people. We say: ‘Long live Constitution’, ‘Long live Democracy, Long live secularism” she added.