Wajahat Habibullah, one of the Supreme Court’s interlocutors for the Shaheen Bagh protests, has called the protests peaceful and beautiful, and blamed the police for unnecessarily blocking roads, reported Live Law. Habibullah, who is a former Chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities, made the observations in an affidavit that he filed in the Supreme Court on Sunday. The court will consider it on Monday.
The protest, which is going on since December 15 and is led by women and children, has been challenged in the Supreme Court by petitioners claiming that the demonstrators have blocked traffic. On Monday, the Supreme Court appointed senior advocates Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran as mediators to convince the protestors to move their demonstration elsewhere and told it to consult with Habibullah. He had accompanied the two interlocutors to the protest site on February 19.
The protestors have occupied a stretch of GD Birla Marg, an arterial road that connects Delhi and Noida, which still remains closed. Residents of nearby localities have complained that the blockade is causing them inconvenience, and commuters on this route say it has added to their travel time.
“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,” read Habibullah’s affidavit. He also sought to know the names of those responsible for taking such a call. “It would be in the fitness of things if the police are asked to reveal names of the persons who were responsible for the decision to block all other parallel and arterial roads in the area and UP, instead of carrying out their duty of regulating the traffic on the same.” In his affidavit, Habibullah has attached photos and a Google map of the roads that have been blocked, reported The Indian Express.
The access to and from Okhla have been closed by piling stones, and the route from Noida on the Greater Noida Expressway to Delhi and Faridabad have been blocked by the Uttar Pradesh Police, said Habibullah. He added that access from Akshardham Temple leading to Kalindi Kunj, Jaitpur, Madanpur Khadar and Faridabad has also been blocked.
Scroll.in has mapped the roads in the area and found that the public inconvenience was not merely because of the closure of GD Birla Marg. Two alternative routes that could have been used by commuters have been barricaded by Delhi and the Uttar Pradesh police. The traffic could have passed through the narrower Kalindi Kunj-Mithapur Road that runs parallel to GD Birla Marg, and could have functioned as an alternative route. However, Uttar Pradesh Police have blocked access to this road by placing barricades around the Kalindi Kunj Bridge that connects Uttar Pradesh to Delhi.
On Friday, the protestors told the interlocutors that other roads too connect Delhi and Noida. They told Hegde and Ramachandran that the police had barricaded the road parallel to their tent. The advocates called the police to the spot to discuss the matter. A police official told them that the parallel road as well as some other roads were kept barricaded to give protection to the protest site.
The road has been reopened briefly for the last two days. On Saturday, a section of protestors in Shaheen Bagh locality briefly opened the road but another group of protestors closed it soon after. On Friday too, the Uttar Pradesh Police had reopened a road connecting Noida and Faridabad for about 40 minutes in an effort to ease heavy traffic congestion between Delhi and Noida due to the ongoing protest.