Guest post by SANGEETA DAS
[The Delhi Police has begun systematically lying about what has been happening in the past few days. We have seen spin doctoring around the unfortunate death of Constable Subhash Tomar. There has been efforts to plant generalized and unsubstantiated rumours about the presence of ‘terrorists’ amongst the crowds at India Gate. We have even seen the Chief Minister of Delhi, Shiela Dikshit and a sub divisional magistrate complain about the Delhi Police trying to interfere and influence that process of the recording of testimonies. Here is an important account by an eyewitness, Sangeeta Das, about the way the police behaved on the evening of the 23rd of December. Please note the kind of language that she says policemen were using. Can we trust the city to be safe in their hands.]
I am appalled at the lop-sided relay of events and incomplete images being telecast by some of the NEWS channels on TV, regarding the incident that happened at India Gate yesterday (this is an account of what happened on 23rd of December) at around 5:30 PM.
I was there. We were all on the other side of India Gate towards the Dhyan Chand Stadium.
I think I need to paint the correct picture for the nation. Except for CNN IBN and NEWS X, most other channels are not showing the peaceful gathering. Thus it gives out the wrong message to the nation, to the politicians, to other women that there was violence.Please pass on this note to as many people as you can and post it at as many places.
THERE WAS NO VIOLENCE NO PROVOCATION…THE POLICE ATTACKED WITHOUT ANY WARNING. I have been through section 144 earlier. At least there should have been one warning issued to us to get up and leave, peacefully, before they started hitting us.
Ms. Naina Kapur, of VISHAKHA GUIDELINES fame, was there with me. Ms.Smita Bharti of SAAKSHI, an NGO working on SEXUAL HARASSMENT on women, was there. Ms.Nafisa Ali was standing behind us, Mr.Arvind Kejriwal was sitting just two rows in front of me, Mr.Arvind Gaur of ASMITA THEATER GROUP was there asking all the people to sit down and listen to the talks.
There were about 200-250 girls and equal or more number of men of all ages. There were young girls, some children, families and some elderly people along with hoards of photographers, journalists and reporters.
WE WERE ALL SITTING ON THE ROAD PEACEFULLY and listening to the painful account, of the mother of ‘KIRAN NEGI’, a 3 yr old who has been brutally raped and disfigured and killed, by her attackers. Even the sloganeering had stopped.
Many young and old men of Delhi were standing around us in a 3-4 layer human chain to protect us from any hooligans or nasty elements. It was like a CHAKRAVYUH.
Members of the ASMITA THEATER GROUP, including Mr.Gaur, were constantly walking around the circle. Young boys and girls of his team were repeatedly requesting and talking to people to not resort to violence, not to panic or run or throw stones, not to damage public property, AND not to hurt or abuse the female protestors.
There were many volunteers distributing biscuits and water to every protestor.
We were talking to the ‘AAM JANATA’ of Delhi on how to tackle the violence on women and children starting from ourselves, our homes and communities.
WE WERE SIMPLY TALKING.
I had just finished my packet of biscuit when the police, hundreds of them from DELHI POLICE and RAF, charged at us from behind, WITHOUT ANY WARNING.
They first attacked the men from behind, breaking their CHAKRAVYUH. I stood up to see what the commotion was about, and immediately fell as most girls didn’t get enough time to stand up. I hugged Smitaji as we fell on each other and there was a stampede over us.
Some of the men from the circle ran for their lives, but most of them ran towards us and hugged us and fell on us and took the initial blows of the LATHI CHARGE.
I couldn’t see anything; I just heard the two cracks of a SPLIT BAMBOO STICK on my back, butt and thighs. Then I heard the police screaming, HARAMZADIYON, RANDIYON, and then I saw a boot kicking my knees and shin.
They hit Smitaji on her lower-back and spine. The boys of ASMITA, and some more men pulled us all up and all of them formed protection girdles around the girls to push us out of the range of the water cannons and charging men in KHAKI AND BLUE.
Visibility was poor due to fog and tear gas; many girls were hit; even when we were running away and saying, “Ham jaa rahen hain, hame mat mariye”,…. they were hitting the boys rampantly, constantly spitting abuses on the girls. Many women reporters were also hit and chased, their vans attacked, equipments broken. Some girls still managed to pull a few lathis and gave it back to the men. I don’t know what happened to the children in the group and how the aunties in saris managed to run. I just hope they are all well.
There was not a single ambulance in sight; the entire C- Hexagon of India Gate was empty, barring the police. We walked for almost 45 min, as there was no way out from the outer circle. Finally we managed to duck behind press vans and escaped via Shahjahan Road.
Do I look like a hooligan? Was I armed? Was I provoking the police or creating a nuisance? Was I resorting to violence, by sitting there and listening to, or sharing our personal grievances of Sexual harassment and assault? You judge for yourself.
Agreed, that in such gatherings, some nasty elements do infiltrate and create a raucous, but the police didn’t seem to have the basic sensibility to differentiate between hooligans and some young girls, children, and elderly people.
If the Delhi Police and RAF lack the basic cognizance to recognize the good from bad, what protection can we expect from them? Instead I thank the men of Delhi, the boys of Delhi, who helped all the girls to escape from the wrath of THE POLICE.
I request the people who were present there, to paint the correct picture, so that Mr.Manmohan Singh, Mr.Shinde and others would get the correct picture of what happened on the ground.
I request the PM and the Home Minister to believe that “I, the woman of India,” am not violent or the ‘Shame of the nation’… that we have to be ashamed that the world is watching. I was not offensive. But I will definitely stand up again to defend myself, my mother, my daughter and my kind. Let the world watch.
More from Kafila:
- Bakht Arif, from Pakistan, sings Zinda Lash for Patronizing Indian Politicians (No, Don’t Listen to Honey Singh)
- How Delhi police assaulted my daughter on 25 December: Usha Saxena
- An ‘I Witness’ Account of Delhi Police and RAF Violence at India Gate on 23 December: Sangeeta Das
- Armed Forces Special Powers Act provides impunity for rape: Warisha Farasat
- Stop Shielding Criminals in the Army and Security Forces in Assam: Bondita and Anjuman
- Play Haze Kay not Honey Singh: Music from Kashmir against Rape for Delhi
- Rape is allowed because most people don’t know what it is: Anonymous
- Sexual Violence and Sexuality Education – The Missing Link: Ketaki Chowkhani
- Misogyny, Politics and Zombiedom: From Sonia Gandhi to Botsa Satyanarayana
- How the God of Death Changed His Mind: Images from the Protest Against Rape at Jantar Mantar
- This is to clarify a small misunderstanding: Anusha Rizvi
- How not to think about violence against women: Noopur Tiwari
- Statement by women’s and progressive groups and individuals condemning sexual violence and opposing death penalty