An immediate recourse needed| HT Editorial
For closure, the Supreme Court must rule on the Shaheen Bagh protestsUpdated: Feb 26, 2020 19:07 IST
The Supreme Court has, yet again, put off the Shaheen Bagh matter till March 23, reinforcing a disturbing trend in which the country’s top court decides that there’s no real urgency in ruling on what can only be described as a burning issue. From the nullification of Article 370 to the detention of local leaders in Kashmir, and from the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, to the Shaheen Bagh blockade, the court has taken its time on issues that continue to roil India. Sure, these are complex issues. Sure, almost all of them are cases where the government is a party. Sure, there’s politics involved. And sure, there are ongoing protests, sometimes violent, related to the underlying issues. But these are all reasons to rule fast and rule with clarity.
Shaheen Bagh has been, for over two months now, the site of a sit-in protest against the CAA. The protesters have blocked a main thoroughfare between Delhi and its satellite Noida, causing inconvenience and hardship to thousands – every day. Their presence there is also a red flag for others, and the people of Delhi should consider it a miracle that there’s been no untoward incident or clash at the site. After all, a similar protest in Jafrabad by an anti-CAA group led to a pro-CAA protest by another group, and between Saturday and Tuesday, parts of north-east Delhi witnessed a full-blown communal riot, leaving at least 23 dead and around 240 injured.
In all these cases, the nature of the final verdict is important. Equally important, though, is that there be a verdict. This will provide some kind of closure to the parties concerned, and also allow the return of normalcy — at least to some extent. For instance, some of the protesters at Shaheen Bagh (there is no one leader of the group) have said they will move to another protest site if the Supreme Court rules that they do. And Delhi Police, responsible for clearing the protest site as well as the safety of the protesters, has chosen to wait for the court’s ruling. By choosing not to pass an order, but observing that roads are not meant to be indefinitely blocked for protests, the Supreme Court has left everyone hanging. It’s not clear what will happen now. What is clear is that Shaheen Bagh remains, at once, the site of both the most successful Occupy movement in the world, and a ticking time bomb.