Shaheen Bagh mediation: Talks between SC-appointed interlocutors and protesters make no headway on day two

  • They told the interlocutors that once the CAA and NRC are rolled back, they will not only vacate the road but also clean it

  • Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran were not willing to start the discussion in the presence of media

  • They appealed to the protesters to find another way to continue with the protest that does not cause inconvenience to others

New Delhi: Talks between the Supreme Court-appointed interlocutors and protesters over vacating the road at Shaheen Bagh made little headway on Thursday as the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act demonstrators remained firm on continuing with their sit-in at the site.

They told the interlocutors that once the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens (NRC) are rolled back, they will not only vacate the road but also clean it.

Senior lawyers Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran, the apex court-appointed interlocutors who reached the site in the afternoon on the second consecutive day, were not willing to start the discussion in the presence of media.

When the protestors managed to convince the interlocutors to let the media cover the proceedings, a media personnel's remark irked them. The interlocutors subsequently asked the media to leave the tent where discussions were on. The discussion lasted for nearly three hours.

Ramachandran began addressing the protesters saying, "We have come here for you. We have to think over it and talk in detail. We are thankful that yesterday we received blessings from all dadis."

She also appealed to the protesters to find another way to continue with the protest that does not cause inconvenience to others.

A crowd of over 100 men and women were not convinced. They unanimously replied in the negative.

Hegde too tried to persuade them. He said the apex court has recognised their right to protest.

"We cannot do a 'my way or the highway here'. We need two hands to clap. If we get adamant and tomorrow if there is a bigger issue and lawmakers put their foot down and do not listen..."

Hegde said other citizens of the city also need to work, travel and feed their families.

"When Shaheen Bagh has become an example of protests in India then let us set an example of a protest that doesn't disturb anybody. You all must be rest assured that we are here to fight for you. Don't think that if you change your spot, your fight will die down," Hegde said.

"We have seen many prime ministers come and go. Whoever comes in power and runs the country.... sometimes they could be right or wrong. Whatever you are saying the whole country is listening and also the prime minister," he added.

On Monday, the Supreme Court observed that the blockade of the road at Shaheen Bagh was "troubling" and suggested the protesters go to another site where no public place would be blocked. It, however, upheld their right to protest.

The apex court also asked Hegde to "play a constructive role as an interlocutor" to persuade the protesters to move to an alternative site. It said the interlocutors could seek former bureaucrat Wajahat Habibullah's assistance.

The protesters, many turning emotional or angry, shared their grievances with the interlocutors on Thursday.

A man broke down while talking to the interlocutors. "I am very scared...very scared of what will happen to my children. Madam save us," he said.

The interlocutors asked him what he is scared of, to which he replied, "I am a single father. My girls go to school where they are being told that you will go out of the country."

Another man, while talking to them, said, "I have a national flag on my bicycle. We love this country and stop calling us traitors." His daughter, who appeared to be below 10 years old, told mediators, "I am a young girl and I want a beautiful India."

Ramchandran repeatedly tried to address their concerns.

"Who says NRC and CAA can't be rolled back? The Supreme Court will decide on this. You have all the right to seek rollback of this legislation. However until then one cannot remain adamant and say that they won't move until the decision is taken."

As the session went on without any solution, the protesters started losing their patience and some of them even shouted slogans which upset the interlocutors.

At one point, Ramchandran told one of the protesters to leave the venue and said, "The atmosphere here is not right for a discussion. The women should select a spot where 10 to 12 women can come in a group to talk to us."

She said if the Supreme Court wanted it could have passed orders to vacate the site. Yet, they want a peaceful mediation and the protesters must respect the decision, Ramachandran said.

One woman protester also referred to Judge Birjgopal Harikishan Loya's death and said if the judiciary is not safe how can they be. In 2018, the Supreme Court dismissed a bunch of public interest litigations (PILs) seeking an independent probe into the judge’s death.

A woman protester said she appreciates the efforts of the apex court to hear them out but the allegation that only Shaheen Bagh has created blockade is not right.

"When LK Advani took out a Rath Yatra, it created more issues for citizens," she said referring to the BJP veteran's rath yatra in early 90s.

She pointed to the man who had broken down and said, "Did you see how a father was crying and asking for security of his children. The atmosphere at his home would be so depressing. His children and all our children are seeing us struggle for our rights."

Hegde told the protesters that they were making the same representations as on Wednesday.

"We are not asking you to stop protesting but just make a small amendment in your movement and let the road be open to all. The matter here is related to the blockade," he said.

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Updated Date: Feb 20, 2020 23:21:14 IST