The Delhi Police on Tuesday cleared protestors demonstrating against the amendments to the Citizenship Act from the Shaheen Bagh neighbourhood, amid an ongoing lockdown in the national Capital due to rising coronavirus cases in the country, reported NDTV. The development came a day after similar protests in Mumbai and Lucknow were temporarily called off due to coronavirus.
The Union health ministry has confirmed 31 cases in Delhi with one of them being a foreign visitor. Out of these cases, six people have recovered from the disease, and a 68-year-old woman died on March 13. As of Tuesday morning, 492 people have Covid-19 in the country, and nine people have been killed.
“People at the protest site in Shaheen Bagh were requested to clear the site as lockdown has been imposed,” RP Meena, the deputy commissioner of police in southeast Delhi told ANI. “But after they refused, the action was taken against violators as the assembly was unlawful.” The official added that some of the protestors were detained.
A large crowd reportedly gathered at the protest site on Tuesday morning, according to some reports. Some other reports, however, said several police personnel had gathered to disperse just a few protestors and wondered if the show of force was necessary.
At Jamia Millia Islamia, another prominent place of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the police used drones to monitor the situation and then removed the demonstrators, ANI reported.
- Coronavirus: 30 states, UTs under total lockdown as cases in India surge to 471; toll at nine
- Coronavirus: What are India’s hospitals doing to avoid becoming disease hotspots?
- Explainer: Where does India stand in its capacity to test for Covid-19?
The police have also cleared protestors from Hauz Rani, Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Atul Kumar Thakur told The Indian Express: “Hauz Rani protest site has been cleared,” he told the paper. “No one arrested or detained.” Protest sites in Jafrabad and Turkman Gate have also been cleared.
On Sunday, when the country observed the “janata curfew”, all but five protestors had dispersed, with some leaving behind their slippers as a symbolic gesture of their demonstration, according to Hindustan Times. The protestors were being convinced since last week to call off the demonstration in view of the pandemic.
The Shaheen Bagh protest, which was on since December 15, had become the epicentre of protests against the amended citizenship law and the proposed National Register of Citizens. The protest, led by women, had inspired similar demonstrations in other cities.
Meanwhile, anti-CAA protestors in Bengaluru, who used to assemble at the Tannery Road, situated on the side of Masjid-E-Hazrath Bilal in Pillai Garden area, also called off their protest. “This is extremely disheartening and sad but to comply with the need of the hour we announce that Bengaluru Bilal Bagh suspends it’s physical sit in 24/7 protest for the public on it’s 45th day of struggle because of the coronavirus (national epidemic/worldwide pandemic) and the State lockdown until the corona epidemic is passed,” a statement from the group said.
The protestors added that the physical sit-in was suspended for the public “but will continue with five women who will be staying 24/7 at the protest site after all necessary medical check-ups”. The statement added that no one from outside will be allowed entry into the site and the five women will not leave the site during the quarantine period. “A symbolic protest will continue online until things return to normal, with our hashtag #digitalInquilab,” it said
On Monday, a group of those protesting round-the clock against the new citizenship law in Mumbai and Lucknow called off their protests to abide by the restrictions imposed in several states to contain the virus. The protestors in Lucknow submitted a letter to the police commissioner, and said they were suspending their demonstration.
At least 34 states and Union Territories in India are under some form of lockdown. The Union Ministry of Health has confirmed 492 cases in the country so far, of which 446 are active. Nine people have been killed so far after two more deaths were reported from West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh on Monday.
‘Do not see clearing as a win or loss’
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court-appointed interlocutors of Shaheen Bagh asked the public not to see the clearing of the protest site as a “win or a loss”, The Quint reported. “We request everyone to see the issue not as a question of win or lose,” Supreme Court advocates Sadhana Ramchandran and Sanjay Hegde said. “The country has a grave pandemic threatening it and currently that must receive priority in terms of everyone’s attention.”
The interlocutors requested both the administration and the protestors to exacerbate the tensions that led to street protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act earlier this year.
Both interlocutors claimed that the process of dialogue kept Shaheen Bagh away from violence. “We believe that the Supreme Court-mandated interlocution kept Shaheen Bagh protests peaceful even while violence erupted in other parts of Delhi,” they said. “Some rigours of the blockade were relaxed by the protesters clearing some peripheral roads.”
Ramchandran and Hegde also said they submitted two reports to the Supreme Court on Tuesday.