At Parliament Street: 2,000, at Jantar Mantar: 1,000 and at the Boat Club: 100. These are the maximum number of protesters that should be allowed at demonstrations in Delhi, according to draft guidelines prepared by the Delhi Police.
The guidelines, to regulate protests in Delhi, also propose no demonstrations after “tragic incidents” at the Boat Club, where protests were stopped after a massive farmers rally in 1993. The police have recommended that only programmes of “social and educational awareness” should be allowed.
“Tragic incidents generate huge emotional outbursts… Such outbursts be strictly not allowed and be curbed at initial outset,” the guidelines say, adding that “spontaneous, leaderless, and directionless” crowds may damage public or private or institutions.
The guidelines were drafted after the Supreme Court, while ruling against a total ban on protests at Jantar Mantar and Boat Club, had given police two months to “devise proper mechanisms” to allow protests at designated locations. The guidelines have to be submitted by the end of this month.
At Parliament Street and Jantar Mantar, if the organisers bring “protesters in huge excess”, the guidelines mandate that protesters will be “blacklisted and will not be allowed to protest in the jurisdiction of Delhi”.
The guidelines also ban burning of effigies or documents, cooking and littering. According to the police guidelines, only two protests can be allowed in a day and the total number of protesters cannot be above 1,000. They also suggest that loudspeakers and public address systems will not be allowed without prior permission and if granted, can be used only between 11 am and 4 pm.
Citing past instances, police in the draft guidelines said: “At times, huge gatherings up to 15,000 had gathered in place of permitted limit of up to 5,000 had choked arterial roads”. The report also talks about Tamil Nadu farmers staying at Jantar Mantar for several months and that they cooked, defecated and washed clothes in the open “creating unhygienic surroundings”.
For Parliament Street, the guideline cites the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh protest, held on September 5, as a reason to limit the number of protesters at the site. The protest, it states, saw a gathering of 15,000 protestors at Parliament Street, Tolstoy Marg and Jai Singh Road, badly affecting traffic in New Delhi.
It also suggested that permission for both the places – Parliament Street and Jantar Mantar— will be granted on first come first serve basis.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, in July, had said that “the right to protest is recognised as a fundamental right under the Constitution”, and “this right is crucial in a democracy which rests on participation of an informed citizenry in governance”. However, it added that “nobody can claim that I have a right to hold demonstration at one particular area only”.
The SC orders came on a petition by NGO Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan challenging the “repeated imposition” of Section 144 CrPC to curb protests in central Delhi. It had also appealed against the NGT order of “immediate ban” on protests at the Jantar Mantar area.
According to Delhi Police’s proposed guidelines, three particular spots – Parliament Street, Jantar Mantar and Boat Club (near Rashtrapati Bhawan) – have been identified for people to demonstrate and lodge their protests. “… if all these three places are allowed to be the protest sites – the gatherings should be limited,” the guidelines say, adding that protests larger than 2,000 should be held at Ramlila Maidan.
Boat Club – which was the only official site for protests until 1993 – is among the proposed demonstration sites identified by police. It was a massive Kisan Rally at the spot that made the police shift all protests from the location to Jantar Mantar. “It was only in 1993 that the official sit of protest was shifted from the Boat Club to Jantar Mantar due to a massive protest by farmers creating havoc,” says the draft.