Crescent Kashmir

Shaheen Bagh protesters will have to follow ban on gathering over coronavirus: Kejriwal

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The ban on gatherings of more than 50 people in Delhi to stop coronavirus spread will also cover protests including the one against the amended citizenship law in Shaheen Bagh, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Monday.

Arvind Kejriwal announced the new steps during a press conference after reviewing the city government’s efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

“This will be applicable for all. Whether it is a protest or anything else, people will have to follow it,” the chief minister said while replying to a reporter’s question.

Protesters at Shaheen Bagh, who have completed three months of their sit-in agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), have said they would continue with their demonstration while taking necessary health precautions.

Their announcement came despite advisories to avoid public gatherings in order to control the spread of Covid-19. Delhi has only reported seven confirmed coronavirus cases so far, including two patients who have recovered and have been discharged. One person, a 68-year-old woman, died last week.

The Delhi government had last Friday ordered a ban on any gathering of more than 200 people, including sports events such as the Indian Premier League (IPL). Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia had asked people to avoid public gatherings and maintain “social distancing” as preventive measures.

The government has also shut all cinema halls, schools and colleges till March 31.

Qazi Emad, media coordinator of the Shaheen Bagh protest said the protesters respect the ban imposed by the government at cinema halls and events such as IPL.

“But those are a form of entertainment whereas our agitation is about our fight for survival. It cannot be compared,” Emad said.

“We will not take any decision on the protest unless Supreme Court directs us to do so,” advocate Anwar Siddiqui, a member of their legal team, said.

Hundreds of people have blocked the arterial Road No 13 A at Shaheen Bagh since December 15, 2019, to protest the citizenship act and National Register of Citizens (NRC).

They have refused to vacate the spot unless CAA is repealed.

They also held a dialogue with Supreme Court-appointed interlocutors who presented their report to the top court last month. The matter is listed for hearing on March 23.

The amended act fast-tracks citizenship for people belonging to non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan who entered India before December 31, 2014.

The law has been challenged in the Supreme Court for being exclusionary and based on religion and has resulted in widespread protests across India.


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