Taking strong objection to the action of Delhi police in forcibly removing the structures at the protest site at Shaheen Bagh, the protesters have submitted a statement before the Supreme Court through the court-appointed interlocutors.
The protesters state that the police action carried out on Wednesday morning citing lockdown measures due to COVID-19 was highly unwarranted, as they themselves had reduced the number of participation in view of the COVID-19 protocol, leaving behind less than five women at the site for symbolic protest.
Despite that, the police acted in high-handed fashion, roping in the aide of non-police personnel, under the excuse of enforcing COVID-19 lockdown measures, they complained.
The statement said :
"While we understand the need for stricter imposition of curfew and enforcement of pertinent restrictions, the ruthless dismantling and thoughtless destruction of the markers of our physical protest, especially the very structures whose placement is in question in a matter that is sub judice in the SC, reeks of strong vendetta and ill feelings towards our innocent protesters, locals and sympathisers".
"...the Police also brought along young civilian men in large numbers to our site (some on tractors) to assist with this forced dismantling. This is deeply unsettling and we demand a fair probe into the involvement of all the unidentified, non-designated and non-Police personnel present with the Police forces at Shaheen Bagh between the hours of 6-10AM on 24.03.2020", they added.
The protesters affirmed that they had been following all health protocols, and strictly observed the 'Janta Curfew' announced on March 22.
"By Sunday, 22.03.2020, the Shaheen Bagh gathering had been thoroughly sanitised and cleared of anything and anyone more than the symbolic protest of 3-5 women protesters seated at sufficient distance from each other. In spite of a strict curfew called by our PM, there was a vicious petrol bomb attack on our physical site on 22.03.2020 by unidentified miscreants; however, in spite of these threats, the small, sanitised protester group sat bravely through the day".
The protesters lamented that while their protests against CAA-NRC gave birth to a nationwide movement, the Central Government did not care to lend an ear to their concerns.
"We have come a long distance in our fight against injustice; We do realise that our efforts have birthed practical, tangible sources of dissent in the system itself. When we began only four states had passed a resolution against CAA- NRC - NPR, today the number is 12", the statement said.
The protesters affirmed their faith in the Supreme Court and expressed gratitude to the Court.
"We are grateful to the Hon'ble Supreme Court for having recognised our satyagraha as being genuine and legitimate, despite the constant attacks on our motives. It was for the first time that any institution had taken cognizance of our long sit-in and appointed interlocutors to understand our problems"., the statement said.
The protesters prayed the SC to provide protection to them from attacks. They also urged the Court to take cognisance of the hate speeches and other incendiary material on social and electronic media directed at protesters.
"A popular sentiment has been created, where dissent is considered an anti national act. We resent this attack on our fundamental right to voice our disagreement in a peaceful manner", they said.
In the statement, they also expressed the difficulties in life in a 'ghetto', and complained about the lack of understanding from the mainstream society regarding their issues.
"Even as Shaheen Bagh has become prominent as a site of protest, we are despaired to see that life in a ghetto, in poorer colonies or slums, is still not understood (even though it is the lived experience of the majority of this country). How 'social distancing' is a position of privilege is still not part of any mainstream discourse. We request the government to launch programs aimed at communities where social distancing isn't a practical measure. We eagerly await solutions aimed at broadening the scope of testing, providing better access to safety equipment and awareness initiatives. The PM must assure us that we will be treated with complete fairness and equality, and establish his commitment towards protecting Indian Muslims in the wake of a pandemic that will likely affect the marginalised the most. We urge the Delhi government to make better arrangements for all those who are most vulnerable in the face of these dark times".
In spite of all this, and in line with the State directives issued to contain the #COVID 19 threat facing our nation, we bravely continue our protest today with only 5 women protesters marking their resistance on behalf of all of us at #ShaheenBagh. (3/4)#JantaCurfewMarch22 pic.twitter.com/jNjfSPYSQU— Shaheen Bagh Official (@Shaheenbaghoff1) March 22, 2020
The protests, largely led by women, had been going on in the form of sit-in at Shaheen Bagh since December 15, 2019 against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 and the proposal to introduce nationwide National Register of Citizens.
Petitions were filed in the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court seeking the removal of the protesters on the ground that they were creating road blocks.
On February 17, the SC appointed Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde and Advocate Sadhana Ramachandran as interlocutors to hold talks with the Shaheen Bagh protesters regarding the opening up of roads closed due to the protests.
The bench comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph observed that protests at public ways "must cease".
After the intervention of interlocutors, the protesters cleared a section of the protest site to open the road from Jamia to Noida in Uttar Pradesh and Faridabad in Haryana.
The police action on March 24 happened on the 101st day of the protest.
On February 1, a person had fired gun shots at the protest site. On Sunday, the day of Janata Curfew, unidentified persons had hurled petrol bombs at the site.