DELHI'S SHAHEEN BAGH PROTEST AMID THE PANDEMIC COVID-19: A BRIEF REPORT By: Mehak Bhatia


THE MOTIVE BEHIND THE PROTEST


The Shaheen Bagh Protest was a sit-in peaceful protest by the women of the same area against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that was passed by both the houses of the parliament on 11 December, 2019. Protesters have raised their voice against not only the CAA, National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) but also against police brutality, unemployment, poverty and for women’s safety. The protest started by 50 residents of Shaheen bagh which mainly included the Muslim women who since 14 December, 2019 have blocked a road in New Delhi using non-violent resistance for 101 days as of 24 March 2020. The protest has gained nationwide public attention and has been the longest protest against CAA-NRC-NPR.


THE EFFORTS MADE TO REMOVE THE BLOCKADE


There was a plea made to the Delhi government in order to shift the Shaheen Bagh Protestors as the public wanted the road to reopen causing daily disturbance to them. The Delhi High Court rejected the plea which was presided by Chief Justice D.N Patel. There was an another petition filed by Adv. Amit Sahni "seeking directions to withdraw the closure of Shaheen Bagh stretch" and give Delhi Police the required assistance in addressing the issue. On 14 January, 2020 the Delhi High Court said that this was a traffic matter and need to be dealt by the police and also assured that there would be no force used to evict protesters from Shaheen Bagh and would use persuasion. The Delhi Police stated that they would look into the restrictions caused by the protesters but they failed to remove them after numerous efforts as the leaders of the protest made it difficult to take any action. On 17 January, 2020 Delhi Lt. Governor Anil Baijal gave the Delhi Police authorization to detain anyone under the National Security Act, for three months beginning on 19 January 2020. There was also a video appeal made to the protestors by Delhi’s BJP Chief Manoj Tiwari to end the demonstration as it is creating a nuisance for the public and CAA is not against any religion. The protesters responded that they would not budge until CAA is removed, but they will help the traffic open for ambulances and school buses only. Commentators have noted that the Shaheen Bagh is allowed to continue as it benefits the regime.


THE NEW GLOBAL PANDEMIC


The Pandemic that began in China in December has now spread across world. It is the reason for the current shutdown in many countries including America, Italy, Iran, China and even India. As per the Situation Report- 1 released by the World Health Organisation on 21 January, 2020, on Novel Coronavirus 2019, there have been a lot of cases reported for pneumonia with unknown cause to the WHO. It was later on identified by labs about the novel coronavirus from Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. So where at one hand India was facing disturbance due to the various protests against the CAA, on the other hand India caught its first COVID-19 case on 30 January, 2020. The country since then has been fighting with the coronavirus like the rest of the world. As of 2 May, 2020, India has reported 37, 564 confirmed cases with a total number of 1231 deaths.


THE SITUATION IN DELHI


The COVID-19 cases have been increasing in the state of Delhi. There has been a state of national emergency. On 20 March, 2020, A PIL was filed by Adv. Ashutosh Dubey who stated the necessary intervention of the Supreme Court in the evacuation of the Shaheen Bagh protesters, in order to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens. The PIL also stated that since the country is in the vague of a dangerous outbreak, these protesters have no right to risk their lives along with the other citizens of Delhi. He stated that there is an urgent need of eviction of protesters at Shaheen Bagh and once this pandemic is in control and the situation is stable the protesters can return. As per the report of Economic Times, The government has declared the COVID-19 outbreak in the country a “notified disaster”, in a move called ‘a special one-time dispensation’, to provide compensation and aid to infected people and the families of those who died due to the coronavirus. Funds for this and other measures will be drawn from the Disaster response Funds of each state.



STEPS TAKEN BY DELHI GOVERNMENT


On the late evening of 19 March, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had urged the citizens of the country to stay at home on the 22 March, 2020 calling it a self-imposed curfew. The Delhi Government imposed section 144 which prohibits any gathering of four or more people in an area starting from 23 March, 6 AM till 31 March, 12 PM. Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal stated that the Shaheen bagh protesters will have to follow the ban on gathering over COVID-19, the rule of gathering of 50 people also includes within its ambit Shaheen Bagh and the protests going on there. On these statements by the government, one of the protester at Shaheen Bagh said that on the day of the ‘Janata Curfew’ the women will sit under a small tent and only two women will sit under each tent, maintaining a distance of one meter between them while the other protester said that they are taking all precautionary measures related to the virus but the protest will not stop any cost. They have also refused the police on their appeal to evacuate the road blockade. While going through the news channels reports, interviews and articles, one of the protester even mentioned that the biggest virus the nation is facing CAA, NPR and NRC. Some other protester state that the C-19 is a master plan of the government to stop the protests all over the country, but they are unaware of the fact that how dangerous this virus can be. Not understanding the situation of the world, the protesters did not stop and kept mentioning that nothing will happen to them, risking the humanity as a whole.


THE FINAL CALL BY THE POLICE


On 24 March, 2020, the Delhi police cleared the protest site at Shaheen bagh where the women were protesting from several months against the CAA-NPR-NRC. The DCP of south-east district stated that at first they informed the protesters to clear the site peacefully and when they refused, the police took necessary actions against the violators as the assembly was unlawful. The Police have detained 6 women and 3 men from Shaheen Bagh for violating section 144 prohibitory orders. The other areas such as Hauz Rani, Jamia University, Jaffrabad and Turkman gate have also been cleared due to the spread of the deadly coronavirus.




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