SC verdict against the idea of protests, say Shaheen Bagh protesters

‘Court order biased, discredits our protest & discourages others’

Politics

October 8, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

SC verdict against the idea of protests, say Shaheen Bagh protesters

Women at Shaheen Bagh protest (MIG Photos/Aman Kanojiya)

Shaheen Bagh protestors feel deceived and dissatisfied with the Supreme Court’s verdict that public places cannot be occupied indefinitely in the name of protests.

“We sat on the road for about 101 days. We struggled through all odds to make sure that the government paid attention to our concerns. The lanes of Shaheen Bagh have witnessed an agitation like never before but after the apex court’s ruling today, we’ll only be remembered as a bunch of trouble makers,” says Fatima, a 34-year-old housewife who participated in the Shaheen Bagh protests.

The Supreme Court, in its verdict on a batch of petitions against the anti-citizenship law protests at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), said that blocking of road by Shaheen Bagh protestors unacceptable. The Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said, protestors cannot occupy public places indefinitely. “Dissent and democracy go hand in hand,” the top court observed, stressing that “protests like these were not acceptable”. However, the ruling is not received very well by the protestors.

Shaheen Bagh had emerged as the epicentre of protests against the contentious CAA where protestors -mostly women and children- sat for more than 100 days. The much talked about leaderless protest started in early December last year, after the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAA) was passed by the Parliament on December 11, 2019. The protest at Shaheen Bagh ended in March this year in view of the Covid-19 outbreak and a subsequent lockdown announced by the government to contain the spread of the disease.

Fatima says that she and other women who participated in the protest are dissatisfied with the court’s verdict and feel that this move goes against the idea of a protest.

“We are women who have families to look after and children to feed. How does the authority expect us to travel to a designated place and sit there for days? The whole idea of a protest is to grab the attention of the public, the government and the media. If we are not allowed to protest in public places like roads and streets, where else are we expected to sit?” asks Fatima.

woman at Shaheen Bagh

A woman at Shaheen Bagh holding a placard in protest (MIG Photos/Aman Kanojiya)

The protests in Shaheen Bagh had received worldwide attention and the Time Magazine honoured 82-year-old Bilkis Bano, fondly called ‘Dadi (grandmother) of Shaheen Bagh’, the face of the movement, as one of the 100 most influential people of 2020.

35-year-old Sonu Khan, a resident of Shaheen Bagh feels that the court’s verdict curbs the right to dissent. “I am an eye witness to women agitating and sitting for months during the anti-CAA protests. I have seen their courage and enthusiasm despite various rumours being spread about them and various questions being raised on them through the mainstream media and few politicians. It feels like the Supreme Court has discredited their work and agitation by saying that police should have removed them and evacuated the site of protest. The court has curbed these women’s right to dissent by saying that their way of peaceful dissent was a trouble to the rest of the city,” Khan adds.

“I understand that the regular commuters might have faced problems but it was for a bigger cause. Our protest was peaceful in nature. If we aren’t allowed to protest peacefully on public places, where else should we go? The court’s judgement seems biased against us as it would discredit us and discourage protestors in future, across the country. One needs to come out on roads and other public places to make sure that they get enough attention; the court assigning us a corner in the city to sit and protest goes against the very idea of what a protest is,” adds Fatima.

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