The Supreme Court upheld the crucial right to dissent in a democracy when it said there cannot be a “complete ban” on holding protests and sit-ins at places like New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar and the India Gate-Boat Club complex.
Protests at the Boat Club were banned in the early 1990s, while the National Green Tribunal directed in 2017 that protests not be allowed at Jantar Mantar. Both these directives were reversed in the recent order by the Supreme Court.
As the videos above and below show, both these locations have seen landmark demonstrations of protests by civil rights activists, students or common people. In 2011, for instance, Anna Hazare began his celebrated movement against corruption here.
Mass protests triggered by the gang-rape and murder of a young woman in December 2012 shook the capital, with people coming out in huge numbers for sit-ins and candlelight vigils at both these locations, undeterred by the imposition of Section 144, which prohibits the gathering of crowds, at India Gate.
In 2017, farmers from Tamil Nadu took over the areas around Jantar Mantar in protest, demanding loan waivers and packages for relief from the effects of drought.
Jantar Mantar has replaced India Gate as a designated place for protests over the years, and the reason for this is thought to be two different events. The first was in 1988, when farmer leader Mahendra Singh Tikait lay siege to the Boat Club for almost a week. The second was a major protest scheduled there by the BJP during the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid stand-off, permission for which was denied by the Narasimha Rao government.