Wajahat Habibullah’s Affidavit to SC on Shaheen Bagh
Former civil servant Wajahat Habibullah who has held several senior positions in government was one of the mediators appointed by the Supreme Court to speak to protestors at Shaheen Bagh. He has submitted an affidavit of his findings, key being that most of the roads have been blocked by the Delhi police and can easily be reopened; and that shifting the protestors from the current site could jeopardise their safety and security.
The affidavit reads:
1.. I state that I visited Shaheen Bagh on 19.02.2020, along with my counsel, as directed by this Hon'ble Court, vide order dated 17.02.2020.
2. I state that the people present at Shaheen Bagh during my visit, belonged to different faiths. There was a strong bond between all the protestors belonging to different faiths, who were assembled peacefully at the site. The common binding interest between the protestors was to oppose the CAA, NPR and the NRC irrespective of their individual faith and Religion
3. I state that during my visit to Shaheen Bagh, I was requested to place the following before this Hon'ble Court by the ladies who were present there:
a) That they were expressing a peaceful dissent against the CAA, NPR, NRC as the legislation and the intention behind the legislation, which has been publicly voiced by many of those in power, has struck deep fear into the hearts of many poor and under privileged citizens of India.
b) That the dissent/protest was out of desperation and compulsion, as they see the CAA, NPR, NRC sounding a death knell for their survival and the existence/survival of their future generations.
c) That they have been facing blatant threats to their lives from various quarters if they continue to protest/dissent but they have been left with no choice but to continue to do so,as their very existence is at stake.
d) That the protests have always been peaceful and no one has ever complained of any violence at any time. They pointed out that none of the residents of Shaheen Bagh or the shop keepers whose shops are located in the vicinity, have raised objections to the protest, as they empathise with the protestors.
e) That while they are proud to be citizens of this country, they are deeply hurt at being abused and labelled as anti national/outsiders/traitors/Pakistanis in various political speeches as well as a section of the media.
f) That the site of the protest was chosen by them as it gives them the much required security since it is flanked on both sides by the Shaheen Bagh Colony (where a large number of them reside) and therefore the chances of the threatened attacks on them are considerably less than they would have been if the protest had been held at any place away from the present site.
g) That there are over a 1000 accesses to roads in Delhi that have been blocked for various reasons by residents of different colonies, or for convenience of the powerful and the privileged, but no action is taken by the police against the powerful and the privileged to remove those blockages.
h) Though the issue of the CAA, NPR and NRC is a burning issue, with protests taking place all over the country against the said legislation, the Central Government is not engaging in any dialogue with the protestors to understand their concerns and they have prayed that the petitions that are pending before this Hon'ble Court challenging the CAA, be heard at the earliest on a day to day basis. They have emphasized that they sit in protest every day facing threats of attacks, as well as actual attacks including shots being fired and constant vilification.
4. I state that during my visit to the site I personally noticed that an Ambulance as well as a school van was given immediate safe passage by those protesting at the site. On enquiring about complaints that Ambulances and school vans were not being allowed to pass, I was informed that all Ambulances and school vans that clear the police barricade after being found to be genuine by the police, are given immediate safe passage through the protest site without any delay.
5.I state that during my visit on 19.02.2020, 1 personally inspected the barricades that were placed by the police on parallel and adjoining roads that are at a great distance from the protest site as well as the various barricades placed by the police on both ends of the protest site. I noticed that 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. It is these barricading of unconnected roads that has led to a chaotic situation. 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 in U.P. instead of carrying out their duty of regulating the traffic on the same. The major roads that are at a distance from the protest but have been unnecessarily barricaded are:
a) Access to the 40 ft wide road running parallel to GD Birla Road has been blocked by barricades at points A to F on the annexed map by the Delhi Police.
b) Access to the 40 ft road as well as the main road leading to Jamia Millia Islamia, New Friends Colony, Maharani Bagh, Sukhdev Vihar etc. from the roundabout of Kalindi Kunj Metro station has been unnecessarily blocked by the Delhi Police at point G on the annexed map, thereby blocking access to and from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Friends Colony, Maharani Bagh, Sukhdev Vihar etc.
c) Access to and from Okhla has been blocked by the Delhi Police by blocking the Okhla Barrage road by piling stones at point H on the annexed map.
d) Access from Noida on the Greater Noida Expressway to Delhi and Faridabad have been blocked by the Uttar Pradesh Police at point I on the annexed map.
e) Access from Akshardham Temple etc. on the Yamuna Bridge leading to Kalindi Kunj Bridge, Jaitpur, Madanpur Khadar, Faridabad etc. have been blocked by the UP Police near Sector 37 Noida at point J on the annexed map. | state that if the barricades at points A to J are removed, the chaos complained of in the Petition would cease.Photos of the barricades on other roads as well as a google map of the area showing the barricades is annexed hereto as Annexure...... Colly.
6. I state that the ladies at the site include the old, middle aged and young along with little children. The assembly is peaceful. The question of their security is also crucial. Any attempt to forcibly shift them from the present site would compromise their safety, especially in view of the abuses and threats that are regularly being meted out and hate speeches aired on social media and also in view of the various attacks that have taken place in different parts of the country on those protesting against the CAA, NPR and NRC.
7. Shaheen Bagh stands tall as a firm example of peaceful dignified dissent, moreso in the face of various instances of state sponsored violence on similar dissents across India. We have been sad and mute witnesses to police brutality and negative typecasting of a particular community across the country. Crushing dissent instead of entering into a dialogue is the new norm, but, it is alien to our Constitution.
8. I state that I rely upon the submissions made in the Application for intervention.