During a hearing in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the centre while justifying the prohibitory orders under section 144 in central Delhi, called the current times as an “era of the professional protesters”. This hearing was called with regards to a PIL filed by an NGO opposing the continuous imposition of prohibitory orders, by arguing that it “obstructed the fundamental right to protest”.
As per Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, in this era, professional protesters prefer to protest outside government buildings like the Supreme Court, Parliament and the residences of the Prime Minister and the President, without considering any alternative venues for their agitation. He thus contended that the protests lead to a serious law and order situation, thereby prompting the government to take holistic steps. He also clarified that the government did not mean that all protesters are professionals.
It has been reported that the Delhi police has been imposing section 144 from January 2017 to October 2017 for declaring the entire of New Delhi as a prohibited area. As the order under the said section is only valid for two months, the police has been issuing the order repeatedly.
This didn’t impress the lawyer of NGO Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan – Prashant Bhushan who contended that prohibitory orders cannot be continuously imposed. He also objected to the term “professional protesters”.
Incidentally, besides the government’s claim, there have been independent whispers of paid protesters in India.
Reports have hinted at the stone pelting protester in Kashmir being paid about Rs 7000 a month to pelt stones at the security forces, besides being given accessories like clothes and shoes. It has been claimed that Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI helps fund these protests via the Hurriyat.