Shaheen Bagh Protests
Shaheen Bagh Protests
Litigation News

[Shaheen Bagh Protests] Police unnecessarily blocking roads, wrongly laying blame on protest: Intervenor, Wajahat Habibullah to SC

Rintu Mariam Biju

Wajahat Habibullah, intervenor in the Shaheen Bagh matter, has filed affidavit in the Court on the road blockage in Shaheen Bagh owing to the Anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests, stating that the ongoing protests are peaceful and that the blame for inconveniences complained of are being wrongly pinned on the protestors.

The report has been filed subsequent to the Supreme Court's order on February 17. Former chief information commissioner Habibullah is assisting the Supreme Court in deciding on pleas filed registering protest to the blockade in Shaheen Bagh following the anti-CAA protests.

On the basis of a personal inspection on February 19, Habibullah has now submitted that the police have been unnecessarily blocking various roads, leading to the chaotic situation complained of. The affidavit states,

I noticed that there are numerous number of roads that have no connection with the protest that have been barricaded by the Police unnecessarily, abdicating their responsibilities and duties and wrongly laying the blame on the protest. It is these barricading on unconnected roads has led to a chaotic situation.
Wajahat Habibullah

Habibullah has added that the traffic in the area would resume back to normal if barricades to five specific road access points (detailed in the affidavit), that have been blocked by the police, are cleared

The affidavit goes on to note that the protests are peaceful and that their security is a major concern at the point. Any attempt to forcibly shift them from the present site would compromise their safety in view of the abuses and threats hurled at them, the affidavit states.

Habibullah has also conveyed to the Court various submissions that the protestors at the site had requested to be placed before the Court.

In this regard, it is submitted on behalf of the protestors that they have been expressing peaceful dissent against the CAA, National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NCR) as these had sowed the seeds of fear into the hearts of many.

The protestors further state that the protests had always been peaceful and that there no cases of complaints by the residents in the areas and shopkeepers in the vicinity. Inter alia, the mediator was also asked to convey that the protestors were hurt by being labelled anti-nationals, outsiders, traitors and Pakistanis in political speeches and by a section of the media.

Notably, the protestors also alleged that while there are over a 1,000 access roads that have been blocked by the residents of various colonies or for the convenience of rich and powerful persons, the police have failed to take any action to remove such blockages.

In this backdrop, the protestors have also raised grievance over the Central Government's reluctance to engage with the protestors and understand their concerns. Moreover, the protestors have also conveyed a request that the Supreme Court heard the challenge to the CAA, 2019 at the earliest, and that the matter be heard on a day-to-day basis.

On a concluding note, Habibullah has submitted,

Shaheen Bagh stands take as a firm example of peaceful dignified dissent, more so in the face of various instances of state sponsored violences on similar dissents across India. We have been sad and mute witnesses to police brutality and negative typecasting of a particular community across the country. Crushing dissent instead of entering dialogue is the new norm, but, it is alien to our Constitution.
Wajahat Habibullah

Last week, the Court had also asked Senior Counsel Sanjay Hegde and Advocate Sadhana Ramachandran to act as interlocutors on the issue. In particular, the interlocutors were directed to ask the protesters at Shaheen Bagh to carry out their demonstrations at an alternative site.

Two petitions have been filed for the clearance of Kalindi Kunj Road, which is in proximity to the site of the protests. The first petition has been filed by lawyer and activist, Amit Sahni. Sahni has prayed for certain specific directions for the removal of the blockage at the protest site.

The second petition has been filed by BJP leader Nand Kishore Garg. He has sought the removal of protesters from the site on Kalindi Kunj Road. The matter is to be taken up by the Court today.

The Supreme Court had issued notice on over 140 pleas challenging the CAA, 2019 last December.

[Read the Affidavit]

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