Wajahat Habibullah, the Supreme Court-appointed interlocutor for the Shaheen Bagh protests, has told the court that the women protesters have chosen the spot for safety, since they have been getting regular threats. He also said there were five alternate roads in the area which were blocked by police or residents and the allegation that the protest was inconveniencing traffic was not correct.
In an affidavit to the court, Mr Habbibullah said: “I noticed that there are numerous number of roads that have no connection with the protest that have been barricaded by the police unnecessarily, abdicating their responsibilities and duties and wrongly laying the blame on the protest. It is this barricading of unconnected roads that has led to a chaotic situation.”
He also said the police should reveal the names of persons responsible for the decision to block the parallel and arterial roads in the area.
The blockage of the road by protesters had become a key issue ahead of the Delhi assembly elections, with the BJP blaming the protesters and accusing Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of encouraging them. “Feeding biryani to Shaheen Bagh” was how the BJP’s star campaigner and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath put it.
Mr Habibullah said the protesters were not blocking school vans or ambulances as has been alleged by political parties. “I was informed that all ambulances and school vans that clear the police barricade after being found to be genuine by the police, are given immediate safe passage through the protest site,” he said in the affidavit.
Along with Mr Habibullah, the court has also appointed senior advocates Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran as mediators.
The two have visited Shaheen Bagh several times over the last week to speak to the protesters and asked for a dialogue away from the media. The protesting women, however, said they want the talks to take place in presence of the reporters.