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Shaheen Bagh protesters peaceful; 'chaos' due to needless barricading

Shaheen Bagh protesters peaceful; chaos due to needless barricading

New Delhi: After having interacted with the anti-CAA/NRC protesters at Delhi's Shaheen Bagh on orders of the Supreme Court, former Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah, one of the three court-appointed interlocutors in the Shaheen Bagh matter has filed an affidavit in the top court, saying that his understanding of the situation showed that the protesters have been peacefully protesting a law that they feel threatens their sense of existence and had faced a blanket vilification for this in the form of verbal threats and even violent outbursts in the form of firing of weapons at the site. He added that upon his analysis, the Delhi Police had unnecessarily blocked many nearby routes which have nothing to do with the protest without any seeming reason, asking that the officials responsible for deciding on road-barricading be named by the Delhi Police.

In fact, similar conclusions have been arrived at by Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Azad and social activist Syed Bahadur Abbas Naqvi, both of whom are intervening applicants in the petition to remove the protesters, currently being heard by the Supreme Court. Both Naqvi and Azad also filed a joint affidavit summarising their understanding of the Shaheen Bagh situation. Azad was earlier allowed by the top court to interact with the protesters as an intervening applicant in the matter.

"It is these barricading of unconnected roads that has led to a chaotic situation," Habibullah has claimed and added that if the barricades are removed from the 10 points he has mentioned in the affidavit, "the chaos complained of in the petition would cease". In his affidavit filed in the top court, Habibullah has contended that "Shaheen Bagh stands tall as a firm example of peaceful dignified dissent, more so in the face of various instances of state-sponsored violence on similar dissents across India. "We have been sad and mute witnesses to police brutality and negative typecasting of a particular community across the country. Crushing dissent instead of entering into a dialogue is the new norm, but it is alien to our Constitution," he has claimed.

Naqvi and Azad, in their joint affidavit, have alleged that "the present ruling dispensation, at the behest of its political masters, had devised a strategy of extinguishing these protests by falsely attributing violence and acts of vandalism to peaceful protestors". They have also said that police has "unnecessarily" barricaded numerous roads that "have no connection with the protest" and are at a great distance from the site, thereby, "abdicating their responsibilities and duties and wrongly laying the blame on the protest". Both of them have claimed the issue of inconvenience to commuters has been "deliberately orchestrated by the police" by blocking all the surrounding roads as well as the arterial roads connecting Delhi, Noida and Faridabad.

Habibullah, in his affidavit, has also stated that the protestors have asked him to convey to the apex court that their dissent "was out of desperation and compulsion" as they see the CAA, National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) as a "death knell" for their and future generations' survival and existence. Other concerns voiced by the protestors were that CAA and the intention behind it, as publicly voiced by those in power, "has struck a deep fear into the hearts of many poor and underprivileged citizens of India". He has

said, "The assembly is peaceful. The question of their security is also crucial. Any attempt to forcibly shift them from the present site would compromise their safety."

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