By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: In a letter to the Supreme Court, Shaheen Bagh protestors on Wednesday sought a fair probe into the actions of the police in forcibly evicting the protestors from the site and withdrawal of cases slapped on them by the police.
Registering protest over their “forcible and vindictive removal” by the Delhi police on Tuesday, they said they had already decided to vacate the protest site in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, save for 2-3 women who would remain present to symbolise the protest.
Taking the advantage of the lockdown on account of Coronavirus pandemic, the Delhi police had forcibly removed the longest protest staged at the Shaheen Bagh which has been running against the controversial and discriminatory new citizenship law. The longest sit in protest began on December 15, 2019 triggered after the police’s brutal attack on Jamia Millia Islamia students who were protesting against this law. The protest-led by women not only attracted the world attention but also inspired women in other parts of the country to launch such sit-in protest against CAA, NPR and NRC. After this, more than 200 Shaheen Baghs were sprouted up across the country.
A letter addressed to the judges of the Supreme Court on behalf of Anti-CAA protestors, they said the disproportionate” action of the Police in the time of Corona was unnecessary and
The protesters asserted that they had already decided to vacate the protest site in view of the “emerging situation with respect to COVID-19”, except for two or three women who would remain present to symbolise the protest.
These women would observe the necessary physical distance and other precautions to guard against the Coronavirus , the letter added.
The protestors further assert that they had prepared a statement to be submitted to the Supreme Court through the interlocutors with this update. On March 23, the protest continued only symbolically with less than five women, the letter states.
“… we have endeavoured to be in compliance of the State directives issued, especially those pertaining to the call for a “Janta ka Curfew” on 22.03.2020. 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.”
On the intervening night of March 23-24, the Police arrived at the Shaheen Bagh protest site and removed it. While the arrival of the police caused some confusion, the situation was resolved at the time, the protestors have said.
However, this was followed by forcible eviction brought about by the Delhi Police on the morning of March 24. Cranes were also brought in to destroy structures at the protest site, all of which rendered the protestors helpless and fearful, the letter states. The letter goes on to highlight,
“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 disproportionate action in the time of Corona was unnecessary.”
In this backdrop, the protestors have submitted a Charter of Citizen’s Rights and Prayers before the Supreme Court, adding that “We look forward to our day in court.”
The charter includes the following prayers:
A fair probe into the actions of the police in forcibly evicting the protestors; withdrawal of cases and personal bonds imposed on peaceful protestors; revocation of cases filed against students the Jamia Milia Islamia following the student anti-CAA protests; take cognisance of hate speeches directed at the protestors; and an enquiry into the relentless attack on protestors on social media.
The letter added that “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”.