24 March 2020
New Delhi: Two interlocutors appointed by the Supreme Court to hold talks with the Shaheen Bagh protesters on Tuesday asked the latter as well as authorities not to do anything that escalated matters in view of the coronavirus scare in India.
The interlocutors appealed after Delhi police on Tuesday morning cleared the spot where the protesters had been holding their 101-day-long dharna in Shaheen Bagh in Jamia Nagar area, dubbed the 'heart of anti-CAA protests in India'.
Police claimed the site had to be cleared of the protesters following the coronavirus outbreak and curfew imposed across Delhi to stop its spread.
On February 17, Senior advocate Sanjay Hedge and advocate Sadhana Ramachandran were appointed interlocutors by a bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K M Joseph to urge the protesters to vacate the public road at Shaheen Bagh and find an alternative spot to continue their protest.
"A grave pandemic is threatening the country and it must receive priority in terms of everyone's attention. We request the administration and the protestors to now not do anything that will exacerbate the underlying tensions that culminated in the street protests," the two interlocutor said in statement.
"As Supreme Court appointed interlocutors, we had submitted two reports to the court, detailing our efforts and the situation prevailing then," said the interlocutors while urging everybody to see the issue not as a question of win or lose.
They emphasized that the process of interlocution has reinforced many invaluable lessons, including the need for continued dialogue at all times.
"We believe that the Supreme Court-mandated interlocution kept Shaheen Bagh protests peaceful even while violence erupted in other parts of Delhi. Some rigours of the blockade were relaxed by the protesters, clearing some peripheral roads. Today, the few remaining Shaheen Bagh protestors have been finally dispersed peacefully with minimal force," added the interlocutors.
According to the police, no force was used during the process; however, several protesters, who refused to leave the venue despite continuous persuasion, had to be taken into preventive detention.
Deputy Commissioner of Police R.P. Meena said: "Police requested them to vacate the place but they refused. So, police cleared the area and detained a few protesters."
The Delhi Police said all protest sites in Jaffrabad, Jamia and Turkman Gate have been cleared and some persons detained at these places.
The agitation at Shaheen Bagh began on December 15, 2019 after police action in Jamia Millia Islamia wherein police force was used against anti-CAA protesters, injuring many students.
According to Shaheen Bagh residents, police reached the protest site around 6.45 am on Tuesday and asked the protesters to vacate the site.
"We were following precautions for protection against COVID-19; only five of us were sitting on protest but they (Delhi police) did not allow us to protest. They have removed us forcibly," one of the women protesters said.
Another area resident Shahrukh said: "They came out of nowhere and since it was early morning only a few protesters were present at the site. Now when the spot has been cleared they have deployed heavy force."
Though heavy police force was deployed to stop protesters from reassembling, the road connecting Noida to Delhi is still not opened for public because of the ongoing curfew.
According to officials in South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), the civic body will now clean up the site and try to repair the damage there to public property. The Public Works Department will also take up the repair and cleaning process.