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India's Top Court Seeks Removal of Shaheen Bagh Blockade in Delhi by Anti-Citizenship Law Protesters

© REUTERS / ANUSHREE FADNAVISDemonstrators attend a protest against a new citizenship law in Shaheen Bagh, area of New Delhi, India, February 2, 2020
Demonstrators attend a protest against a new citizenship law in Shaheen Bagh, area of New Delhi, India, February 2, 2020 - Sputnik International
New Delhi (Sputnik): India has been witnessing countrywide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which came into effect in December 2019. The law provides a path to Indian citizenship for illegal immigrants of six "persecuted" minorities from three neighbouring Islamic countries, while not giving the same eligibility to Muslims.

The Supreme Court of India has appointed Senior Counsel Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran as interlocutors to talk to the protesters at Delhi's Shaheen Bagh area and see if any reasonable solutions can be reached so that roads are no longer blocked.

Two petitions have been filed for the clearance of Kalindi Kunj Road, which is in proximity to the site of the protests and has been witnessing traffic snarls due to the blocked protest site.

During the hearing, the two-member justice Bench said that the right to protest is a fundamental right, but it should be done without blocking the roads.

"We do not have a problem with 5,000 protesters. We just want those roads not to be blocked. A segment of society is very angry following the passing of the law, but there is a manner in which the protests can be done which does not affect traffic flow," the court said.

"… People get ideas and tomorrow they may hold protests in another area. But it should be done in a manner which does not affect the traffic," the court added.

Hundreds of women and men, in Delhi's Shaheen Bagh area, have been protesting against the Modi government's new citizenship law and a proposed National Register of Citizens (NCR) since 15 December 2019, blocking the main Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch which connects the city of Delhi to Noida. 

The court has asked if everyone starts blocking the roads where will the ordinary people go.

"People can continue their agitation but not on a road which is used by a large number of people on a daily basis," the court said, to which the lawyer representing the protesters said that "Give us some time, we will do it".

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Delhi government, said the protesters are keeping children and women in the front as a shield. Following which, the apex court has appointed mediators.

"We want to solve this issue. If nothing works out, we will leave it to the authorities. But we are hopeful for a solution," the court observed.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, which was passed in December 2019, grants citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jain, and Parsi illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan who faced persecution in their homelands and arrived in India on or before 31 December 2014.

It, however, doesn't extend the same rights to Muslims, which sparked nationwide protests as people have claimed it's discriminatory. The government, for its part, denies these accusations.

The proposed NRC is a headcount of citizens of the country and is intended to weed out illegal immigrants. The Narendra Modi government, however, has clarified that it has no plans as of now, to implement a nationwide NRC.

Both houses of the parliament passed the CAA while the NRC, the Indian prime minister and Home Ministry have clarified, is not even being discussed in government.

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