The Delhi Police on Tuesday appealed to the protestors in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh locality to end their demonstration against the Citizenship Amendment Act amid the country’s efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic, The Indian Express reported. The number of COVID-19 cases in India rose to 137 on Tuesday.
Police held a meeting with a group of protestors, along with members of the Resident Welfare Association of Shaheen Bagh and Abul Fazal Enclave, to persuade the demonstrators to call off their sit-in in light of the pandemic, an unidentified senior police official told the newspaper. “The meeting was held at the barricades,” the official said. “They said they will convey the message to the protestors.”
The Shaheen Bagh protest, which has been going on since December 15 and is led by women, has become the epicentre of protests against the amended citizenship law and the proposed National Register of Citizens. The protest has been challenged in the Supreme Court by petitioners claiming that the demonstrators have blocked traffic.
The Delhi government on Monday banned gatherings of more than 50 persons – including ongoing protests – till March 31 to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 infection. However, the protestors in Shaheen Bagh defied the order and said they would continue their demonstration. The protestors, in a statement, claimed they were in touch with medical and legal experts for assistance.
By Tuesday morning, however, the protestors declared they would comply with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s order and limit the number of people at the sit-in to less than 50. Despite this, hundreds of demonstrators showed up at the protest site by evening.
Protestors at Shaheen Bagh told The Indian Express that arrangements were being made to procure thermal scanners to test everyone. “At least four people will guard the protest site and each person who visits or wants to participate in the sit-in will have to undergo the thermal scanner,” one such unidentified demonstrator told the newspaper. “If even slight fever is detected, they will be sent back. We are taking all necessary precautions. Protestors have been told to wear a mask and sanitisers too have been made available.”
The volunteer added that elderly women and children will no longer participate in the sit-in protest, while the protestors present there will be made to sit a metre apart from each other. When asked about the meeting with the Delhi Police, the volunteer said, adding, “We are in discussions with all stakeholders, all women, and will take a call.”
Meanwhile, the toll of coronavirus deaths in India on Tuesday rose to three after a 64-year-old man, with travel history to Dubai, died in Mumbai. The Centre has banned passengers from Afghanistan, Philippines and Malaysia from entering India till March 31 as the number of coronavirus cases rose to 137. Many states in India have declared a lockdown of schools, colleges, gyms and swimming pools. The government has also advised people to avoid non-essential travel and urged employees of private companies to work from home.