Supreme Court's Mediators To Talk To Shaheen Bagh Protesters On Shifting

Shaheen Bagh: "Right to protest is a fundamental right. What is the alternative area they can continue the protests without blocking the road?" the Supreme Court said

The sit-in at Delhi's Shaheen Bagh began about two months ago.

Highlights

  • Senior Advocates Sanjay Hegde, Sadhana Ramachandran to act as mediators
  • Ex-chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah will assist the task
  • Protests at Delhi's Shaheen Bagh are going for over two months now
New Delhi:

Two senior lawyers have been chosen by the Supreme Court to talk to protesters who are on a sit-in for over two months in Delhi's Shaheen Bagh against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA. Senior advocates Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran will meet the protesters and try to persuade them to continue their agitation in another location so that commuters are not hassled due to road diversions and blockades. Former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah will help them in the task.

"Right to protest is a fundamental right. What is the alternative area they can continue the protests without blocking the road?" the Supreme Court said.

To this, the Delhi Police's lawyer replied, "They can choose a place."

Hundreds of people have set up camp and dug in on a stretch of road in south Delhi's Shaheen Bagh for over two months now; commuters say the barricades put up by the police around Shaheen Bagh have made their daily run longer and tedious, with frequent traffic jams. Some businesses have complained to the government that they are running into big losses due to the road blockades.

"There are lines and boundaries. You want to protest. No problem. But tomorrow another section of society may hold protests in another area... There must be some method so that traffic flow is free," the Supreme Court said. "Our concern is if everyone starts blocking roads, where will people go?"

The top court told the lawyer, who represented the protesters, that they can continue their agitation but not on a road that's used by a large number of people everyday.

"Give us some time, we will do it," the lawyer said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, on behalf of the Delhi government, said the authorities don't want to escalate the issue.

The top court appointed the mediators after the Delhi Police alleged the protesters, mostly women, are "keeping children in the front as a shield".

"We want to solve this issue. If nothing works out, we will leave it to the authorities. But we are hopeful for a solution," the court said.

Shaheen Bagh is seen as a potential tinderbox since any police action on the protesters, who are largely women, may escalate the situation. The protesters on Sunday got up to demand a meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah. After walking for some distance, they returned to the tents after the police formed a ring and spoke with them.

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