New Delhi— On the conclusion of his interactions with the protesters of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, one of the three interlocutors appointed by the Supreme Court last Monday for clearance of the road blockade, filed an affidavit in the top court on Sunday in which he reportedly said that the Shaheen Bagh protest site is the confluence of different faiths, the protesters are completely peaceful and most of the roads around the venue were blocked by the police, not the protesters.
Since December 15 last year, hundreds of people, mostly women, of this Muslim-dominated locality on Delhi-Noida highway in south Delhi, have been holding round-the-clock sit-in against CAA and central government’s plan for National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Due to the blockade of roads, there was huge traffic issue for lakhs of daily commuters between Delhi and Noida through this Kalindi Kunj-Sarita Vihar road. The top court was approached seeking directions for clearance of the roads.
Last Monday (February 17), the apex court appointed senior lawyer Sanjay Hegde, Sadhana Ramachandran and Wajahat Habibullah to talk to the protesters to convince them to clear the roads. The panel made several visits to the site and interacted with the protesters.
“The ladies at the site include the old, middle aged and young along with little children. The assembly is peaceful,” Habibullah said in his affidavit, adding that the protesters told them that they are occupying only one road and rest roads were blocked by the Police.
The affidavit carries the following points on behalf of the protestors, says LiveLaw.inI:
1) The protests were a way of peaceful dissent against the CAA-NRC-NPR, a legislation, which has struck deep, fear into the hearts of the poor & underprivileged;
2) The protestors saw the CAA-NRC-NPR as a threat to their survival and that of their future generations and came out to protest out of desperation;
3) They have faced blanket threats to theirs lives for their dissenting voices but they continue to protest as their survival is at stake;
4)None of the residents or shopkeepers around Shaheen Bagh have objected to their peaceful protests but in fact have empathized with the cause;
5) They are proud citizens of India and are deeply hurt to have been labeled as traitors/anti-nationals/Pakistanis by the political parties & by the media;
6) They stated that protest site at Shaheen Bagh provides them with security as it is flanked from all sides and emergency vehicles are given immediate and safe passage.
Furthermore, Habibullah said in the affidavit that personally inspected the site and barricades and he found that the police had placed barricades on parallel and adjoining roads, even though they were in fact at a great distance and had no connection with the actual protest site.
“It is these barricading of unconnected roads that has led to a chaotic situation,” he said.
He also said that protesters are allowing emergency medical vehicles to pass through the roads.
In over two-month long protest at Shaheen Bagh, several multi-faith events were organized at the venue. Hundreds of Sikhs have visited the place from Punjab. Some Sikhs are running lungar for free distribution of food among the protesters.
On more than one occasion, miscreants have tried to physically harm the protesters. Last month, a young man raising Hindu slogans had fired towards the protest site from a little distance. A Hindu-right youtuber had sneaked inside the protest tent wearing Burqa. Both were caught by the police and handed over to the police.
During the recent Delhi Assembly polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders had aggressively attacked the Shaheen Bagh protest in their speeches – many of them were so provocative and inflammatory that the poll body had to gag them for some days.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the petitions against Shaheen Bagh road blockade today (Monday).
Meanwhile, the top court is also likely to hold next hearing on the around 150 petitions filed against CAA in December. In the last hearing on January 22, the top court had asked the central government to file its reply to all the petitions.