Jantar Mantar has fallen silent after the National Green Tribunal order; its voices emptied out. But, that doesn’t mean all voices have.
Social activists Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey led a walk through Jantar Mantar road highlighting the protests that grew out of the grounds and went on to gain national prominence, including Medha Patkar’s Narmada Bachao Andolan and Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption.
“We are exploring all avenues, including appealing in court. We are consulting a number of people. Let’s see what will emerge out of these talks,” said Roy. “We will file a PIL demanding a space for dissent, and the case will also look at the overreach of Section 144. The decision on where to appeal is yet to be taken,” added Nikhil Dey.
“We will demand a place to dissent near the seat of power; otherwise how will our voices be heard? Dissent cannot be quelled. It is an important part of any democratic process. How can the poor be expected to pay Rs 50,000 to protest at Ramlila Maidan. These are people who come to demand Rs 100, Rs 200 as their pension. Moreover, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, which runs Ramlila Maidan, will hand over the maidan to only one group at a time. How will that help the protestors,” asked Roy.
“In a country of 1.3 billion people, there are millions of issues and the authorities decided to comply with this order swiftly. This is nothing but the emergence of dictatorship,” said Roy, who had to take special permission for the walk.
“The ban on protests at Jantar Mantar is an indication of killing spaces for protest. When a protest is on at Jantar Mantar, their voices can be heard by the rulers. This is an irritant for them. If people cannot resort to their democratic right, then what kind of democracy is this? It’s not that we are against noise pollution, but what about the other kinds of pollution affecting the Capital. Put a cap on those too,” notes Medha Patkar.
There should be a space for agitations. “They should give us a larger space where people can protest. Maybe spaces should be allotted in front of different ministries, the Parliament and the Assemblies, but until then protests should be allowed at Jantar Mantar,” adds Patkar.