The Delhi Police on Friday appealed to protesters on the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch to move their ongoing demonstration against the Citizenship Amendment Act to another location in the "larger interests of the public".
Hundreds of women and children have been braving Delhi's cold winter at Shaheen Bagh for over a month now, becoming the face of countrywide protests against the controversial law enacted in December. However, the protest has also resulted in blockage of the stretch -- a key link between Noida and South Delhi -- and caused congestion on alternative routes such as the Delhi-Noida-Delhi Flyway.
"We appeal to agitators on Road No 13-A, Shaheen Bagh, to understand the sufferings that the highway blockade is causing to residents of Delhi and NCR, senior citizens, emergency patients and school-going children," the police said in a statement.
On Tuesday, the Delhi High Court had asked the police to try and clear the route through "persuasion" instead of force. "The concerned respondent authorities shall also keep in mind the larger public interests as well as maintenance of law and order," a bench comprising Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar said.
The court gave the directive while disposing of a public interest litigation filed by advocate and social activist Amit Sahni, who cited the hardships being faced by commuters in the national capital region due to the ongoing protest. Police said they are also reaching out to religious leaders in an effort to make the agitators vacate the vital route.
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari had tweeted a video appeal to the protesters on Thursday, accusing the Aam Aadmi Party government of "ignoring the plight of lakhs of people facing inconvenience" because of the protests. "I am making this video because I am distressed... Lakhs of people in the city are facing inconvenience everyday because of protests at Shaheen Bagh. They are completing a 25-minute journey in two-three hours," the 48-year-old leader said in the clip.
However, many have come out in support of the women and children at Shaheen Bagh too. Two days ago, a group of farmers came down all the way from Punjab and set up a langar -- the traditional community kitchen of Sikhs -- for the benefit of those at the protest site. "We are here to show solidarity against the Citizenship Bill," one of them said, adding that they were also against the "divisive politics" of the government.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, for the first time, makes religion the test of citizenship in India. While the government claims that it will help minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries get citizenship if they fled to India because of religious persecution before 2015, critics say it is designed to discriminate against Muslims and violates the secular principles of the constitution. The National Register of Citizens or NRC, on the other hand, aims to identify illegal immigrants settled in the country.