A women protester (in yellow) at Shaheen Bagh speaking to the Supreme Court-appointed interlocutors on Wednesday.
Amid the media clangour of road blockage and sit-in causing inconvenience to commuters, women protesters at Shaheen Bagh made it clear when the SC-appointed interlocutors made them a visit: first, the “discriminatory” amendment to Citizenship Act must be revoked and the exercise of NPR-NRC be halted. Then comes the question of clearing the arterial road, blocked since over two months.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court-appointed mediation panel made its first visit to Shaheen Bagh—the epicentre of the anti-CAA protests. The visiting team included Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde and Sadhna Ramchandran.
Appointed to persuade protesters to move to an alternative place, the duo assured the protesting residents that their concerns will be addressed. “The Supreme Court has sent us to find a solution. We hope to speak with everyone. We will work together,” said Ramchandran while addressing the crowd assembled in large numbers.
Former Chief Information Officer Wajahat Habibullah, who is also part of the team set up by the apex court, reached the protest site later in the day, after Hegde and Ramchandran left.
At first, Hegde read out the February 17 judgment of the Supreme Court and then the protesters were allowed to speak about their concerns to the two, in a bid to initiate the first mediation discussion.
Explaining why, in a break from the tradition, no committee was formed to represent the thousands protesting residents, one of the protester told NewsClick that it will be unfair to all. “This is a leaderless protest. Many of the women protesters were not in favour of choosing a voice to represent them. They want to speak out loud themselves.”
As the discussion went on, questions ranging from the communal slurs that have been thrown at the protesters over the period to attacks on Jamia students and Shaheen Bagh were raised vociferously by the women protesters.
“Everybody is talking about clearing the roads… Our children at Jamia were attacked, they were brutally beaten up. Who is going to take the responsibility of that?” asked one of the dadis of Shaheen Bagh to the interlocutors, adding that if we open the parallel road, who will take the responsibility of our protection?
The issue of the school buses and ambulances not being passed through the protest site has also been reported by several media houses in the past. However, an ambulance arrived while the discussions between the interlocutors and the protesters were going on. “Look, the ambulance is allowed to be passed, which is also the case for school buses and other emergency situations,” said one of the protesters while speaking to the mediation team.
The SC-appointed interlocutors ended the discussion on the note that they will come to the protest site on Thursday as well to continue the mediation.
The interlocutors were appointed by a bench of Justices S.K. Kaul and K.M. Joseph.
The bench was hearing petitions filed by lawyer Amit Sahni and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Nand Kishore Garg, who were seeking clearance of the Shaheen Bagh protest.
Habibullah has, along with Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Azad, filed an intervention application on the matter.
Wednesday marked the 66th day of the indefinite sit-in protest by the residents of Shaheen Bagh against the controversial amendment to Citizenship Act, proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) and imminent National Population Register (NPR).
The case will be next heard on February 24.