NGT’s Ban on Protest at Jantar Mantar: A Blow to Democracy

Every Indian who heads towards Delhi’s Jantar Mantar believes that from here his voice will echo in Parliament. However heartless political system considers them nothing less than noise pollution. Jantar Mantar is a place which has witnessed various successful revolutions in the past. But now the system is all set to crush these voices stamping these as pollution. Let’s have a look on the report which analyzes the clever decision of NGT.

by Niranjan Mishra

Amid the report of National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) decision to prevent protest demonstrations at Jantar Mantar, Chauthi Duniya reached out to some of the affected people at ground zero to observe the actual situation. Ravi Dutt, who had just returned to the place after having his meal from Gurudwara Bangla Sahab, was furious when asked about the decision: “I don’t have enough money to have a simple meal of a day. It is only because of Gurudwara Bangla Saheb that we sustain our protest to any extent.” He said, “Now the NGT asked us to move to Ramleela maidan, which I visited yesterday. It does not have even basic facilities. Is government going to arrange for food?”

Secretary of Kisan Majdoor Sangh Ravi Dutt is protesting for farmer’s rights and is demonstrating in Jantar Mantar since July 3, 2017. The retired soldiers who are sitting on a dharna for more than 800 days are planning to move challenge NGT’s decision in the court. According to them “We are breathing in a democratic country. We have been given this right by our constitution which talks about freedom of expression”. As far as noise pollution is concerned, few filthy rich people who are complaining about it, needs to get shifted at some other place’. A retired army man David Raj is protesting for liquor ban across the country.  Initially he was protesting in Tamil Nadu. When his voice remained unheard, he decided to move towards Jantar Mantar. For the last 170 days he has been here. He says ‘best place for a protest is the one which is near to the parliament’. If government is willing to move us from here it can put us in jail. At least our voices will reach to the system. Along with that, these demonstrations are means of livelihood for small vendors. They earn by selling Tea and Pakoras to protestors. A woman who sells tea shared with Chauthi Duniya “for last few years I have been selling tea at this place”. Protestors are like client to us. In case if the demonstrations stop my business will be shut. Likewise there are many more for whom these agitations are means of earning. Ban on the protest will hit the livelihood of uncountable hands and mouths.

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Right To Respectful Life vs Right to Protest.  

The whole issue has transformed into a tussle between two fundamental rights. National Green Tribunal has issued a verdict this month on October 5. As per the orders Demonstrations at Jantar Mantar were to be immediately halted. Subsequently the place has to be evacuated within four weeks of verdict. While announcing the verdict Chairperson of NGT Justice Rathore referred the provisions of Pollution Control Act 1981. Along with that he mentioned about right to Respectful Life. Apparently, the case was filed by the filthy rich residing near Jantar Mantar. They mentioned it as an annoying issue. Varun Seth who lives at 6-Jantar Mantar Road file a plea against the protestor. He stated ‘for the last four years we were battling for this decision. We are fed up of these demonstrations. The reason being we cannot stay in our houses peacefully. He also referred to people residing in nearby area. They are also sailing on the same boat. Zorawar Singh Siddhu is also amongst these. His address is 5-Jantar Mantar road. He also talked about Right to Respectful Life. According to him protestors are snatching their fundmental right of respectful life. Here the question arises, the one who are raising their voices at Jantar Mantar,  were they not given any rights by our constitution? Our constitution ensures Right to Peaceful Protest to every citizen of India. In order to get rid of these loudspeakers which are often heard riches are leaving no stone unturned. People whose voices remain unheard make it to Jantar Mantar so that they can get justice. They do not settle here parmanently, only protesting for the last 4-5 years. Since 1993 Jantar Mantar has become a spot of claiming the rights. Consequently if people are shifted from here what kind of facilities they would be able to avail? In order to seek the answer of the question asked by NGT from Delhi government that had they ever visited Jantar Mantar to view the pathetic condition of the protestors, we intiated. We could not find their condition pathetic. However it was witnessed that the farmers from Tamilnadu who were fighting for farm loan waiver were making hue and cry. Simultaneously a young man was trying to get his voice heard as he was announced dead in the government records.  

Paying 50,000 for Protest Is Next To Impossible

After NGT’s decision came up farmers from Odisha were not given any space for protest at Jantar Mantar. They were asked to move at Ramleela Maidan. After reaching Ramleela Maidan they were informed about the advance bookings on October 11 by other organisations. Hence they were compelled to return. Ultimately they held their demonstrations at parliament street. During the process they came to know about hefty fee for holding demonstrations at Ramleela maidan. They told ‘Chauthi Duniya’ that farmers had to pay Rs. 50,000 for holding a single day protest at Ramleela maidan. If any organisation wish to organise protest at Ramleela maidan firstly it has to pay complete fee. Along with that there aren’t any facilities available at the place. One will wonder how a 12 acre Ramleela ground can be an option for Jantar Mantar. Those agitators who are completely dependent on Gurdwara Bangla Sahab for food, how are they going to pay the bulky sum of Rs. 50,000 for the protest

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