Why Blocking Of Road At Shaheen Bagh Was Allowed?

 

Why is it that even after more than 81 days the blocking of road at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi is continuing uninterrupted since 15 December 2019? Why is it that Centre allowed this to happen? Why were they not promptly evicted?

Why rule of law was allowed to be flouted with impunity by the Centre? Should we be proud of it? Will this not inspire others also to follow suit?

Why were the potentially dangerous consequences not thought of seriously by the Centre of all this leading to huge resentment among the rest of the people which finally culminated in violence and riots which has left nearly 50 dead and there are many more who are still battling with their lives? Why Centre allowed again blockade at other places also which ultimately culminated in horrifying riots that has sullied our image in front of the world? Why Centre kept watching all this like a mute spectator?

What message has been sent? Why women have been allowed to block the road in the name of protest? What sort of protest is this that you put other people to maximum inconvenience?

How can this be justified under any circumstances? Why is it that Supreme Court instead of ordering the immediate eviction of blocking of road which is a national highway and connects Delhi and Noida decided to just condemn it and ordered the setting up of a high powered Committee comprising of senior lawyer Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran to engage in talks with those who have done the illegal act of blocking road? What precedent has the Supreme Court set?

Why Supreme Court didn’t order them to immediately move to some other location so that the common person is not disturbed in any way from moving from one place to another? It cannot be justified under any circumstances! It will only serve to encourage others to follow this same extremely dangerous and diabolic route which is bound to have disastrous consequences for our nation!

How can any sane person justify what Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Supreme Court that Harsh Mander who is a former IAS officer said openly that, “We have seen the track record of the Supreme Court. We have no faith in Supreme Court but we will still have to go. But ultimately, justice will be done on the streets?” Mehta was referring to Harsh Mander’s long controversial speech in Hindi, allegedly made at Jamia Millia Islamia University on December 16, 2019. He also said that, “Ye ladai sansad mein nahi jeeti jayegi. Yeh ladai Supreme Court mein bhi nahi jeeti jayegi. Wahan koshish zaroor kareenge, hamara Supreme Court hai. Lekin faisla na sansad mein na Supreme Court mein hoga. Is desh ka kya bhavishya hoga, aap log sab naujawan hai, aap apne bachon ko kis tarah ka desh dena chaahte hain, ye faisla kahan hoga, yeh sadkon par hoga”. This cannot be justified under any circumstances because if everything is decided on roads by creating more and more “Shaheen Baghs” then even God cannot save this nation from being plunged into more and more riots! Can we afford this?

Every Indian and every sane person on earth is shocked that how can anyone be allowed to block roads? How can they be allowed to block the road for such a long time? Will others not feel encouraged to follow suit?

Will tomorrow blocking of bridges, blocking of railways, blocking of airports also be justified similarly in the name of dissent? Will Supreme Court set up Committee to talk with them also? What sort of dissent is this? What trend has been set? It is beyond my comprehension!

You put other people to maximum inconvenience and justify it in the name of “dissent” and are allowed to do so for more than 81 days continuously! None other than Supreme Court sets up high powered Committee and accords VVIP treatment to those protesting at Shaheen Bagh which is still mocked at and the street protest continues unabated! The Apex Court said that it had perused a report submitted by the interlocutors deputed by it to negotiate with the protesters at Shaheen Bagh and added there are “too many ifs and buts” in it.

The Apex Court declined to pass any immediate direction saying “the environment is not conducive” and deferred the hearing to March 23.” What ensued in between was the deadly and ghastly riots which has shocked the world!  I fail to understand that why did the Supreme Court procrastinate by setting up Committee to talk with them and not order their immediate removal from road at Shaheen Bagh to some other place so that the traffic is not blocked? This obviously encouraged others to follow suit and what followed was worst riots since 1984 right at the heart of Delhi!

It must be pointed out here that when Justice KM Joseph pointed out that, “Look at the way the police in the UK or USA function. They (USA, UK police) do not have to wait for orders to act.” Pat came the reply from the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that, “If the police here start working like the police in USA or UK, this court would be the first institution to come in between.” Mehta has a valid point! The Apex Court must introspect honestly on this!

No jurist and no Judge whether of High Court or of Supreme Court can ever justify such dissent because this is a crime and not dissent. Dissent has to be peaceful and it cannot be by blocking of roads and by chanting anti-national slogans of the worst kind and propagating to fulfill the dream of Jinnah to further break this nation to more pieces no matter how many Judges and Jurists may try to justify it one pretext or the other!

It is not for nothing that none other than Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan while criticizing and condemning the brazen and undemocratic blockade of road at Shaheen Bagh minced no words to say that people sitting on roads and disrupting normal life to force their opinion on others is a form of terrorism! He was unequivocal in advocating that, “Aggression doesn’t come in the form of violence only. It comes in many forms…If you won’t listen to me, I will disrupt normal life. Dissent is the essence of democracy. There is no problem with that. But five people sit outside Vigyan Bhawan and say that we shall not move from here unless this Parliament of Students adopt a resolution which we would like them to adopt. This is another form of terrorism.” Who can deny or dispute this? No one!

I must recall here that my best friend Sageer Khan once while returning from mosque in 1993 looked disappointed. I asked him the reason. He said that there was no space inside mosque and he would never offer namaz on road as he never wanted to do anything by which another person faces problem! He was not prepared to be on road even for a short time as it would cause inconvenience to others! Now see that, on the contrary, what is actually happening at Shaheen Bagh! Shamelessly blocking national highway since last more than 81 days and yet not going away! How can anyone justify this on any ground? How can any country where “rule of law” is followed ever allow this under any circumstances?

Why Centre and Supreme Court have allowed this Shaheen Bagh to fester for so long? Why this case has not been decided at the earliest? Why Supreme Court by choosing not to pass an order of eviction from illegal occupation, but instead merely observing that roads are not meant to be indefinitely blocked for protests has left everyone hanging as pointed out in editorial titled “An immediate recourse needed” in Hindustan Times dated February 27, 2020? Supreme Court certainly has not covered itself with glory by not ruling decisively on this most promptly and its dilly-dallying approach only served others to hold more such protests at other places which finally culminated in many more such protests and which eventually resulted in riots and killings claiming nearly 50 lives and leaving more than 200 injured!

Faizan Mustafa who is Vice Chancellor of NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad has also minced just no words to point out in ‘The Indian Express’ dated February 28, 2020 that, “By not hearing petitions on the constitutionality of the CAA, not taking cognizance of the inept handling by the Delhi Police of atrocities against the students, the Apex Court has overlooked the gravity of the situation.” Kapil Sibal who is a former Union Law Minister and also an eminent and top lawyer of Supreme Court too lamented that, “The judiciary has also not responded with alacrity and the kind of sensitivity expected of it. There was a time when it would have suo motu taken up the issue and ensured that engineered violence of this kind was dealt with expeditiously. In an age when the social media is replete with images that act as evidence, the courts could easily have taken up the matter, asked for a response overnight and ensured that possible acts of violence were nipped in the bud.” He also rightly pointed out that, “Nothing prevented the judiciary from suo motu taking action for the kind of speeches that were made with the intent to incite.”

It needs no rocket science to conclude that the protesters cannot sit on a public road or a public airport or a public rail track and cause blockade of cars or bus or train or aeroplane or helicopter! Just because they carry national flag or a copy of Constitution will not justify their illegal acts under any circumstances! This is what the Centre as also the Apex Court too has failed to appreciate! If they had appreciated then there would have been no blockade at Shaheen Bagh or at any other place under any circumstances!

When law applies equally to everyone then how can few women be allowed to publicly block national highway and public road as we saw shamefully in Shaheen Bagh? Why was it allowed to happen at the first place? Every person has right to protest but it cannot be by blocking of roads, blocking of rail tracks or blocking of airports etc!

This is what Supreme Court too apart from Centre has miserably failed to convey to those who are protesting at Shaheen Bagh! Attempts were made to replicate the same at Jaffrabad and other places and even metro rail stations were blocked and this resulted in clashes which should never have been allowed to take place at the first instance! Law has to be same for everyone and anyone who blocks roads must be made to evict it!

If police kowtows in front of them helplessly as we saw in Shaheen Bagh then they are bound to feel more emboldened and this only serves to create unrest in the place where roads are blocked as we saw in Delhi! What emboldens them most is that even Centre and Supreme Court do nothing to ensure that they are promptly removed from their illegal occupation of road connecting two states and two important cities – Noida and Delhi! What does it all boil down to? Huge violence on an unprecedented scale which resulted in the untimely loss of nearly 50 people till now apart from huge destruction of vehicles, property and buildings! Can our nation afford this again? How many times?

Sanjeev Sirohi

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