A Bharatiya Janata Party leader from Delhi has moved the Supreme Court for an urgent hearing to remove protestors from Shaheen Bagh area. The court on Tuesday asked the leader, Nand Kishore Garg, to approach its mentioning officer to get an early date of hearing for his petition, PTI reported.

Hundreds of women, along with children, have been peacefully protesting against the amendments to the Citizenship Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens at Shaheen Bagh since the middle of December. The law has been widely criticised as discriminatory and Indian Muslims fear it could be used along with the citizens’ register to harass and disenfranchise them.

Restrictions have been imposed along the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch and Okhla underpass due to the protests.

The petition sought comprehensive guidelines regarding such restrictions to hold protests, which obstruct public places. “It is disappointing that the state machinery is muted and silent spectator at hooliganism and vandalism of the protesters who are threatening the existential efficacy of the democracy and the rule of law and had already taken the law and order situation in their own hand,” the petition said.

It also alleged that the law enforcement agencies were being “held hostage to the whims and fancies of the protestors”.

Shaheen Bagh protests

The protest at Shaheen Bagh has stood out from other demonstrations across India because it has been led mostly by Muslim women from the neighbourhood. They have been sitting on the road, often with their children, through the winter and refusing to budge.

Over the past month, Shaheen Bagh has inspired women across India to start similar sit-ins. Other places Shaheen Bagh-style protests are underway include Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune Allahabad, Gaya, Patna and Hyderabad.

These protestors have come under intense criticism from BJP leaders. At a press conference on January 27, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad claimed that Shaheen Bagh was offering a platform to the “tukde tukde gang”, a term coined by the BJP to malign its critics as people working to balkanise India.

Other senior leaders in the central government and the BJP have called the protestors at Shaheen Bagh terrorist sympathisers, and encouraged the shooting of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protestors.

On January 26, Union Home Minister Amit Shah asked the audience at a campaign meeting to “press the button with such anger that the current is felt at Shaheen Bagh”. Shah told the audience that their vote to the BJP could keep the “country safe and prevent thousands of incidents like Shaheen Bagh”. Hours after a gunman fired shots at protestors outside the Jamia Millia Islamia University on January 30, Shah asked Delhi voters at an election rally if they were “with Modi or Shaheen Bagh?”

On January 27, Union minister Anurag Thakur led a crowd of BJP supporters in chanting the slogan “shoot the traitors”. The next day, Lok Sabha BJP MP Parvesh Verma claimed protestors at Shaheen Bagh would “rape and kill your sisters and daughters”. These instances of hate speech prompted the Election Commission to ban Thakur and Verma from campaigning for Delhi elections for a few days.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath on February 1 appeared to suggest the use of bullets as a means to get dissenters on board.