Monday, 30th October 2017

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Dialogue plea vindicated: Shaheen Bagh

The response when the interlocutors discuss an alternative site has not been firmed up yet

By Pheroze L. Vincent in New Delhi
  • Published 18.02.20, 2:15 AM
  • Updated 18.02.20, 2:15 AM
  • 2 mins read
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So far, the protesters, led by women and holding an unbroken vigil for over two months on the arterial GD Birla Marg in the capital, have only had an audience with lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal, who served as a post office between them and the Centre. AP

The immediate view in Shaheen Bagh is that the Supreme Court’s decision to appoint interlocutors is a vindication of the protesters’ demand for talks.

The response when the interlocutors discuss an alternative site has not been firmed up yet. But one organiser said the priority would be to “find a middle path so that our peaceful struggle to defend the Constitution can continue to inspire people” but without paining others.

So far, the protesters, led by women and holding an unbroken vigil for over two months on the arterial GD Birla Marg in the capital, have only had an audience with lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal, who served as a post office between them and the Centre.

The Centre had not responded in spite of multiple campaigns by the women to invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss their grievances against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

“Even if there is one dissenter, the government needs to respect them,” said Shaheen Kausar, an organiser at Shaheen Bagh. “All over India, thousands are protesting, who, if not for Shaheen Bagh, may have suffered silently. Yet, because of the arrogance of a few, the government does not want to even listen to us…. The government feels no sympathy even after the deaths of so many protesters in the country. I feel sad that the courts had to intervene to ensure talks with us.”

Nahid Fatima, a young protester from the neighbourhood, said: “Amit Shah gave the green flag for talks. When we want to go to talks, the police say he doesn’t want to meet us yet. The basic justification for any law is that it is for public good. The ban on instant triple talaq was justified on the ground that it was to protect Muslim women. What justification does a citizenship law have that discriminates on the basis of religion? The court today vindicated our position that we can’t move until someone comes and talks to us about why we feel the need to leave our homes and sit here on the road.”

Kausar and others said they would welcome the interlocutors and would be in a huddle through the night to finalise the talking points.

“Our courts have largely been silent on the composite culture of this country being eroded. For us, the priority is to find a middle path so that our peaceful struggle to defend the Constitution can continue to inspire people, and at the same time cooperate so that others do not feel any pain because of our presence,” Kausar said.

One of the interlocutors, India’s first Central Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, told The Telegraph: “I will be there to assist the interlocutors in talking to the women. It is a case of peaceful agitation, which they have a right to do as long as they don’t interfere with the rights of others.”

Main interlocutor Sanjay Hegde himself is part of many anti-CAA events — a fact that many at the Bagh know of. A source said the interlocutors would establish contact through informal channels before they visit the protest site — a tricky situation as no organised leadership is in place.

“If not anything, we at least have some time to breathe and think calmly without the fear of police attacking this place,” local activist Shahzad Ali said. “The government needs to think why there is so little faith in them today that they will solve any problem in this country.”