Supreme Court appointed mediators reached a point of negotiation where the Shaheen Bagh protestors agree to open the road with police assuring them adequate security. The possibility of opening one of the carriageways, which is not occupied by the protesters at Shaheen Bagh was a positive change in the negotiation. Though the protesters remained adamant that they won’t move from their present spot, they also insisted that it was the police which had closed the carriageway on the other side, thereby giving the SC-appointed mediators a window of opportunity. This carriageway brings the traffic from the Noida side into Delhi.
During the interaction which started late in the evening, the mediators — Sadhana Ramachandran and Sanjay Hegde — took serious note of the fact that the road from Noida had been briefly opened on Friday morning. Following their dialogue with the protesters, they visited the spot and subsequently suggested that the route could be opened. The two senior lawyers observed that a lot of what the protesters had said was true. “They opened the road and shut it. Whether it was Delhi Police or Noida Police, we don’t know, but it was indeed a sign that it can be opened. We will have to tell SC… Whoever did it is answerable to SC,” they said.
“Who has occupied the other carriageway? We need clarity from you,” the mediators asked the crowd. The unanimous response was: “Police has occupied.” Ramachandran probed further: “Are you saying that you are sitting here and the other side has been shut by Delhi Police and you are okay with it as you feel you’re safe that way?” A protester responded, “Delhi Police has shut the other side.”
Hegde then asked if there was anyone from the police on the spot. The SHO of Shaheen Bagh police station stepped forward and gave the assurance that the police were willing to provide the protesters adequate security if they agreed to cooperate. He said they had made the requeste earlier too and proposed to put a barricade on the divider. “Hamari taraf se jo security hai woh poori denge (We will provide adequate security),” he said.
The crowd was unanimous in asking the police to give in writing that they would keep their promise, and in case of any untoward incident, the entire heirarchy — from the commissioner to the beat constable — should face the consequences. Some doubts remained. “It was Delhi Police that beat up Jamia students and one of them lost an eye. Female students were marched out of the campus with their hands raised in the air even as they were being abused verbally,” said a woman, expressing her apprehensions.
Hegde had earlier reminded the gathering that it was Mahashivratri on Friday and his mother used to say that on this day even somebody’s curse turned into a blessing. He tried to convince the protesters that it was essential for them to realise that there was hope and their right to protest was not being taken away in case they decided to clear the road.