SC upheld right to protest, but other citizens also have rights: Mediators to Shaheen Bagh protesters

SC upheld right to protest, but other citizens also have rights: Mediators to Shaheen Bagh protesters

New Delhi, February 19

The two interlocutors appointed by the Supreme Court on Wednesday visited Shaheen Bagh to initiate talks with the protesters, asserting that the top court has upheld their right to protest but it should not affect the rights of other citizens.

The two interlocutors are advocate Sadhana Ramachandran and senior advocate Sanjay Hegde.

“The Supreme Court has upheld your right to protest. But then other citizens also have their rights and it should also be maintained,” Ramachandran told the crowd assembled at the spot in large numbers.

“We want to together find a solution to the problem. We will listen to everyone,” she said in Hindi.

Earlier, Hegde explained the Supreme Court order to the protesters. This was  translated into Hindi by Ramachandran.

The protesters have been on a sit-in against the new citizenship law for over two months.

On Monday, the Supreme Court while hearing a plea against the blockade, appointed senior advocate Sanjay Hegde and advocate Sadhana Ramachandran to mediate with the protesters and persuade them to move their protest to an alternative site where no public place is blocked.

The apex court said people have a fundamental right to protest against a law but the blocking of public roads is a matter of concern and there has to be a balancing factor.

The top court was hearing an appeal filed by advocate Amit Sahni seeking directions to the Delhi Police to ensure smooth traffic flow on the Kalindi Kunj- Shaheen Bagh stretch, which was blocked by anti-CAA protesters on December 15.

The Supreme Court's appointment of two interlocutors brought a little disappointment to the demonstrators though many of them believe there is finally an avenue to talk to the government about their dissent.

A section of the women protesters said the tent put up by them symbolised the venue as their "battleground for justice and equality". They said they were not averse to the idea of moving but first demanded detailed talks with the government on the CAA.

"We started our protest on December 15 when the students at Jamia Millia Islamia were beaten up miserably by police. We won't be too happy to move but since it is the court's decision, we will accept it with full respect," said Shaheeda Khan, a resident of Batla House.

"However, moving the point of protest won't be a decision accepted by all," she added.

Ritu Khosla from the Shaheen Bagh Co-ordination Committee had earlier told PTI, "The SC's decision is welcome and we fully accept it. We will be happy to meet the mediators who have been appointed by the apex court. I don't know if the protesters would agree to move. The decision to change the venue of the protest will entirely depend on the joint decision taken by all protesters of Shaheen Bagh."

The famous grandmothers or 'dadis' of Shaheen Bagh welcomed the decision saying they now expect genuine mediation with the government.

"We have wanted to talk to the government for two months. We tried various times to have a dialogue and marched towards the home minister's house too. However, the police always stopped us. We are ready to talk but there should be a genuine interaction and mediation between us and the government," Sharvari Dadi of Shaheen Bagh had said.

The Shaheen Bagh protesters had marched towards Union Home Minister Amit Shah's residence on February 16 seeking to talk to him about the new citizenship law. They were stopped by Delhi Police midway. The march had included senior citizen women, popularly known as the 'Dabangg Dadis' of Shaheen Bagh.

The men at Shaheen Bagh said the SC's decision had brought a small but important victory for the protesters as the Centre will now have to talk to them.

"We are happy that at least the SC thought that there should be a dialogue because the government has been avoiding a dialogue. The government may think that removal of the protest point is their victory but the victory is ours because now we will directly talk and bring a solution in rolling back the CAA," Azim Khan, a resident and shop keeper at Shaheen Bagh, said. —  Agencies

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