• Associate Sponsor

A place to protest

NGT order on Jantar Mantar threatens to shrink space for dissent. It must be challenged.

By: Editorials | Published: October 9, 2017 1:20 am
NGT, National Green Tribunal, Jantar Mantar, Protests, Jantar Mantar Protest, Ban on protests at Jantar Mantar, Delhi Protest sites, India News, Indian Express Editorials, Indian Express permanent residents of this part of central Delhi had pleaded to the NGT that the protests cause noise pollution and inconvenience to the residents.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban on protests at Jantar Mantar Road has justifiably raised apprehensions and concerns about the shrinking spaces for democratic dissent in the country’s capital. Some permanent residents of this part of central Delhi had pleaded to the NGT that the protests cause noise pollution and inconvenience to the residents. The NGT has found merit in their plea and has asked the authorities to shift the protestors to an alternate site — the Ramlila Maidan — within four weeks. The NGT ruling must be challenged. And until a final resolution in the case, individual citizens and groups who have converged there from different parts of the country in order to make their issues and causes seen and heard, must be allowed to do so.

The NGT ban has come primarily on three grounds: One, Jantar Mantar is not an authorised site for protests — there is no executive order that demarcates it as such; two, Jantar Mantar Road is marked as a residential area in the Delhi Master Plan and hence cannot be allowed to be used for other purposes; three, the protestors and agitators cause pollution, particularly noise pollution, because of unregulated use of loudspeakers and amplifiers, public address systems, drums etc. Issues of littering, sanitation, and even of cow protection groups bringing cows and carts to the area have been mentioned in the NGT order as justification for the ban. However, what the NGT has clearly overlooked in its zeal to sanitise the area is that master plans and zoning laws are open-ended documents — they must necessarily incorporate room for changes that urban areas undergo over time. Cities have an organic life of their own; it is restrictive and even absurd to insist that they be bound and confined by the imperfections of masterplans conceived long ago. The Jantar Mantar area became the preferred site for those protesting against government policy and injustice when authorities banned them from the Boat Club lawns citing security reasons.

Jantar Mantar turned out to be a hospitable site for dissent since it is easily accessible to citizens while being close to Parliament, unlike the Ramlila Maidan, an open ground in a chaotic and congested locality of the city. Since then, many defining moments of citizens’ action of our time — for instance, the Anna Hazare fast against corruption and more recently the rallies and meetings demanding justice for Rohith Vemula and sit-ins against lynchings and in defence of free speech — have taken place at Jantar Mantar. These have underlined India’s democratic culture, reminding institutions and legislators of the anxieties and rights of the citizens they are supposed to address and serve.

The NGT ban must be urgently reconsidered. Laws must be interpreted in a reasonable manner, not in ways that stifle free expression by citizens against a state that may become unresponsive or overbearing.

For all the latest Opinion News, download Indian Express App

  1. R
    Ram Sathe
    Oct 10, 2017 at 4:25 pm
    When the going gets ‘tough’ the tough gets going AND tough times don’t last But tough People do. Besides this ‘The tough time hav taught Us to be TOUGH WITH THUGS’, Wr to Our Endless Mailed e-mailed Appeals for “MERIT BASED JUSTICE” denied to Us by SC, We have said to SC Co in our mails. Like SC Naughty Boy also has lost his hat in hitting below his own belt to be NO shame. SC regime didn’t do Anything for over 50 Yr against Rogue Regime whose Henchman on becoming 1st Citizen of the Country, Indian President Shri PKMji on 1st December 2015 at Sabarmati Ashram Unashamedly without Any Sense of Proportion in Despising Entire Population of the Nation that without Any shame AND that too in August Presence of PM Modijee said, REAL DIRT OF INDIA LIES NOT IN STREETS BUT IN THE MINDS OF OUR PEOPLE. Any? Why should therefore in Any Status, be it from PM to Peon in public office in “KHAKI OR KHADI” or even those in Black Robes be Spared being ROGUES.
    (0)(0)
    Reply
    1. S
      Shriram Manohar
      Oct 10, 2017 at 4:22 pm
      When the going gets ‘tough’ the tough gets going AND tough times don’t last But tough People do. Besides this ‘The tough time hav taught Us to be TOUGH WITH THUGS’, Wr to Our Endless Mailed e-mailed Appeals for “MERIT BASED JUSTICE” denied to Us by SC, We have said to SC Co in our mails. Like SC Naughty Boy also has lost his hat in hitting below his own belt to be NO shame. SC regime didn’t do Anything for over 50 Yr against Rogue Regime whose Henchman on becoming 1st Citizen of the Country, Indian President Shri PKMji on 1st December 2015 at Sabarmati Ashram Unashamedly without Any Sense of Proportion in Despising Entire Population of the Nation that without Any shame AND that too in August Presence of PM Modijee said, REAL DIRT OF INDIA LIES NOT IN STREETS BUT IN THE MINDS OF OUR PEOPLE. Any? Why should therefore in Any Status, be it from PM to Peon in public office in “KHAKI OR KHADI” or even those in Black Robes be Spared being ROGUES. And what About Moral, Mental Material
      (0)(0)
      Reply
      1. S
        Shriram Manohar
        Oct 9, 2017 at 12:01 pm
        I had been commenting for over two half Years with a leading English News daily with motto, LET TRUTH PREVAIL But No more as it gets Cold feet. 'Long live democracy: PM Narendra Modi on Rahul's congratulatory message' OMG. Cong(I)Raj, Fence Played Foul is Fact . CBI ex-chief A P Singhâ s assets to be attached news. Earlier I commented on the article CBI ex-chief Ranjit Sinha TELLS SC IT HAS ADOPTED DOUBLE standards Hey Ram Be it Ranjit Sinha /or this A.P Singh, there is Not Only NO End to this But Speakes on Corrupt Motal Values Volumes of All Vile Villainous Acts by Power inebriated All these Men in Our Putrid Polity as Men with Moral Turpitude. This Havoc, Tip of iceberg. PM MODI hits out at 'political worshippers'' of black money, graft'. Not on this news article But on All other, I Refer to all MY earlier comments on All such Very Vital news article in a leading daily with Motto, LET TRUTH PREVAIL
        (0)(0)
        Reply
        1. V
          V.S.Malhotra
          Oct 9, 2017 at 3:59 pm
          Pray thee! Please do not get disgusted because there may yet be some possibility of some great man appearing in our land. According to Greek mythology, there once was a king Augeas of Elis who was known for his huge stables where he used to keep large number of horses/cattle but he never took the trouble to get these stables cleaned with the result that these stables had become so messy that it became impossible to get them cleaned by ordinary means of cleaning. So Hercules a great Greek hero ultimately took courage to divert a whole river and make it pass through these stables to get rid of this huge mess. In some similar manner India has become a huge forest full of immense numbers of wild trees of greed, selfishness always laden with narrow self interest with no trace any spirit of common good. Some day perhaps we too may see the coming of an Indian Hercules who will teach us to give a little thought to the needs of our neighbor while collecting all the wealth into our own pockets.
          (0)(0)
          Reply
          1. V
            V.S.Malhotra
            Oct 9, 2017 at 5:43 pm
            Let us be a bit more realistic. Gone are the days of mythologies. We are living in a real world. If there are any weaknesses in it, these are of our own making and what is more, we ourselves will have to become small Hercules to eliminate them. These small Hercules when acting together will become a huge Hercules with strength enough to clean our forests of all useless vegetation and plant in their places, saplings of fruit which will grow up to become big beautiful trees with tasty dusehri mangos hanging from their branches for all of us to relish. All we have to do is to become good malees with members of the media likeThe Indian Express will give us good lessons how to do our job well. These maalees will have to digest the lessons with due application of a rational and scientific at ude of mind.
            (0)(0)
            Reply
          2. S
            Shakeel Ahmed
            Oct 9, 2017 at 11:56 am
            Complete Ban on using Jantar Mantar for protesting can be modified by ban on using loudspeaker, drums, making provision of due care of environment and sanitation and issuing guidelines for commute and protesters for peaceful march.
            (0)(0)
            Reply
            1. V
              V.S.Malhotra
              Oct 9, 2017 at 1:26 pm
              Use of loud speakers cannot be avoided as the number of parti nts in such gatherings of protesters is usually very large. So we will have to find out some other permanent solution. Use of drums and such other devices making unnecessary noises can certainly be banned. Moreover if these protesters take out a procession over long stretches of the road, even loud speakers can be banned. If the protesting parties have to give some messages to the bystanders this can be done through banners.
              (0)(0)
              Reply
            2. V
              V.S.Malhotra
              Oct 9, 2017 at 11:50 am
              Whereas NGT’s concern about the some unhealthy environmental influences arising out of using Jantar Mantar Road in New Delhi as a platform by various units of the civil society for arranging their protests in support of their views is quite valid yet it is also necessary to keep in mind that such organizations are part of civil society which is legitimate arena of a democracy and therefore they should be given some space so that they can carry on their legitimate activities. It therefore becomes the duty of the society to provide such a suitable space to such organizations as has been very aptly expressed in the IE editorial. Also the immediate solution which the editorial suggests is perhaps the only viable solution and should therefore be accepted. This said, there is an important lesson for us to learn from this episode i.e. our planners of our future such cities may like to make it necessary to provide in the master plans of new cities, a suitable place for such activities.
              (0)(0)
              Reply
              1. Load More Comments