New Delhi: Shaheen Bagh protest will stay, Sandhya Ramachandran—one of the interlocutors appointed by the Supreme Court—assured protesters who have been staging an indefinite sit-in against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the National Population Register (NPR) and the proposed National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) at the arterial road that connects Noida, Delhi and Faridabad since December 15, 2019.
“Shaheen Bagh hai aur barkarar rahega (Shaheen Bagh will sustain). It would be good if we find out a solution to the road blockade. We know you don’t want to trouble others,” she told the agitators who reiterated the same—only a small stretch (around 150 metres on one side) of the road is blocked by them, but the rest has been obstructed by the police.
The two mediators (senior advocates Sanjay Hegde and Ramachandran) then went to check all the alternate routes, which, as the demonstrators alleged, the police have blocked.
“We will have to take decisions with a lot of responsibility. We have understood your concerns. Your issues are related to the CAA, which is under the consideration of the apex court. The issue at hand for which we have come here to find a resolution with your cooperation is the traffic blockade. Let’s talk about it and try to reach a conclusion,” she told the protesters, adding that “if no solution is reached, the matter will go back to the Supreme Court and then the government will act accordingly”.
But the protestors seemed adamant that they would not evict the road till their demands are met. They told the panel that they could talk on opening the alternate routes only.
Hegde intervened and told them that the top court has given the agitators a “victory” by acknowledging their right to protest. He urged the protestors to look into the matter seriously so that the court is not left disappointed. “We should set an example that issues can be resolved amicably. We are here to help others, not to trouble anyone,” he said.
He continued, “You are not ready to open the road because you assume that no one will hear you. We are here to make your voice heard. The Supreme Court will hear your concerns regarding the CAA and the NRC when the matter comes up for hearing. We urge you to trust us.”
Shaheen Kausar, one of the protestors, appealed to the mediators not to see the Shaheen Bagh protest in isolation. “Please don't see this protest in context of Shaheen Bagh only, see it in larger context. If we end our protest and leave the road, it will demoralise demonstrators across the country who have hopes in us. It is not the first time when a road has been blocked in Delhi. The same had happened during the movements led by Jai Prakash Narayan and Anna Hazare,” she said adding that this blockade is being “blown out of proportion in the name of people’s inconvenience”.
Another woman, quoting Iqbal, said, “We claim ‘hum bulbule hain iske, yeh gulistan hamara’. But unfortunately, this is not being acknowledged by this government, which considers us outsiders.”
Hegde shot back with first stanza of the poem, “‘Saare jahan se achcha, Hindustan hamara….’ Kaun kahta hai ki aap Hindustani nahin hain (who says you are not an Indian)? This motherland belongs to everyone. Government comes and go. We all are Indians and will remain forever.”
He even quoted famous revolutionary poet Habib Jalib who had said: ‘Woh tujh se pahle jo takht nashin tha, us ko bhi apne ḳhuda hone pe itna hi yaqin tha (The one who sat on (and loved) this throne before you was equally sure of his divinity)’. “Yeh ek mahaul hai jo badal jayega. Nafrat khatam ho jayegi (The atmosphere of hate will change),” he told the protesters.
Another agitator, who had come with his two daughters, broke down and said, “Mujhe dar lagta hai, main apne in do bachchon ke saath rahna chahta hun. Agar mujhe detention centre bhej diya gaya to kya hoga in bachchon ka? Madam, please bachaye hamen. Hum Bharat ke nagrik hain, please hamari nagrikta nahin chiniye (I am scared. I want to live with my two children. If I am sent to a detention camp, who will take care of my two children? Madam, please save us. We are citizens of India; please don’t take our citizenship away).”
He said one of his daughters studies in standard I and the other in standard VII. Holding a tricolour, he said, “The flag belongs to us, the country belongs to us. We respect Modi ji as our prime minister and Amit Shah as our home minister. Why does the government hate us?”
The protesters insisted that Shaheen Bagh is the “mother” of all anti-CAA protests across the country. “The entire country is watching us,” they said and added, “If we evict the road, it will give out a wrong message”.
Hegde, at last, assured protesters that when the CAA will be argued in the court, lawyers across faiths will oppose it to defend “your rights”.
But, he said, someone has approached the Supreme Court with grievances of road blockade and it must be addressed. “You adjust a bit so that protest does not cause traffic woes. Agar aap koi hal nahin nikalte hain aur Shaheen Bagh ke protest pe koi apatti aati hai to dusre protest par bhi iska asar padega (If you don’t find out a solution and Shaheen Bagh protest faces any problem, it will impact other protests as well). We appeal to you to consider others’ plea as well,” he added.
The mediators will return tomorrow as well and they said they are sure that they will reach a solution amicably, which will be acceptable to all.