Shaheen Bagh protests: We will find a solution, say SC-appointed interlocutors as dialogue with protesters hit several roadblocks

The Supreme Court appointed mediation panel went to Shaheen Bagh on Wednesday in an effort to come to an understanding with the protesters who have been holding sit-in protests at a public road for over a month now

FP Staff February 19, 2020 17:37:35 IST
Shaheen Bagh protests: We will find a solution, say SC-appointed interlocutors as dialogue with protesters hit several roadblocks
  • The SC-appointed mediation panel went to Shaheen Bagh in an effort to come to an understanding with the protesters who have been holding sit-in protests at a public road for over 60 days now

  • Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde who is a member of the panel said, 'We have come here according to the order of Supreme Court. We hope to speak to everyone'

  • Wednesday's discussions were just a start and the process will continue on a daily basis till Sunday, 23 February

The Supreme Court-appointed mediation panel went to Shaheen Bagh on Wednesday in an effort to come to an understanding with the protesters who have been holding sit-in protests at a public road for over 60 days now. However, the difficult process of trying to communicate with a leaderless protest that has now burgeoned into a massive movement, hit several speed bumps on the way.

The Supreme Court had mandated the panel to ensure that the protesters allow regular traffic to pass through the Kalindi Kunj road, one of the arterial roads connecting Delhi to Noida. The mediators will again try to break the ice with the protesters tomorrow (Thursday), as the panel has time till Sunday before the next hearing of the Supreme Court.

At the onset, senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, who is also a member of the panel arrived hopeful of reaching a solution through dialogue. "We have come here on the orders of Supreme Court. We hope to speak to everyone. We hope to resolve the matter with everybody's cooperation. We hope to speak to everyone. There are no favorites and we hope to resolve the matter inside with everyone's cooperation," Hegde said. He said that the Wednesday's discussions were just a start and the process will continue on a daily basis till Sunday, 23 February.

In a statement released on Twitter, Shaheen Bagh organisers said, "We are grateful to senior advocates Sadhana Ramachandran and Sanjay Hegde for starting the mediation process in the Shaheen Bagh main tent. As per their guidance, we look forward to continuing this dialogue over the coming days."

Shaheen Bagh protests We will find a solution say SCappointed interlocutors as dialogue with protesters hit several roadblocks

SC interlocutor Sanjay Hegde at Shaheen Bagh protests. Twitter @saahilmenghani

Sadhna Ramachandran, secretary of the arbitration department at Delhi High Court and also a member of the panel said that she remains hopeful of a mutually acceptable solution to the issue.

The mediators hit their first roadblock when they approached the protest site in the midst of a huge commotion. Several attempts to interact with the crowd appeared to fall short as the interlocutors were unable to communicate due to the noise.

This was also because of the unorganised nature of the protests; Shaheen Bagh became the epicentre of protests against Citizenship Amendment Act not on the behest of any leader or political party but because individual housewives, mothers and grandmothers grabbed media attention because of their unique peaceful protest.

After several appeals for silence, the interlocutors were able to command the crowd's attention. Hegde started off by reading out the Supreme Court's order for the protesters while Ramachandran translated the order in Hindi.

She said that she hopes that the protesters and mediators can come to a common ground. "We will find a solution that will be an example for not just India but the entire world," she added.

Ramachandran said, "We are here hear you out. We wish to hear everyone out. But it is important for us to tell you that whatever may happen your right to protest will remain protected. However, we are here because one person's right to protest should not hinder another person's right to commute."

The protesters were opposed to this point as they asserted that school buses and ambulances have been allowed to pass, but their "protest is also important".

Another sticking point in their efforts to interact with the protesters was when the interlocutors tried to get the media to vacate the tent so that the mediation process can proceed in private. However, the protesters told the interlocutors that they want to speak to them in the presence of media.

In the ensuing confusion, most media channels shut out the live feed but reporters were still able to send out updates via social media.

Once the dialogue process started, the women of Shaheen Bagh spoke at length about their plight and their grudges. Some complained that the simple housewives who were speaking up for their rights were being name called by the ruling party leaders and pro-CAA voices. Others were disappointed because the government had made no efforts to engage with them.

Meanwhile, the protesters resolutely defended their points and refused to vacate the protest site. When Hegde suggested that they should reach a solution in which Shaheen Bagh can be opened, without, ending the protest, he was met with a huge and resounding 'No' from the protesters.

One of the women in the cried responded, "If we get up, who will protect us from assaulters. While we are here, nobody tried to engage with us, if we vacate this area the government will forget us completely."

Hegde was touched by the points raised by protesters. "After listening to you, I am reminded of one line, liberty lies in hearts of people like you who walk holding constitution. You are hope for freedom to live," he said.

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