On a day when the Prime Minister put his foot in his mouth by saying that ‘footlose migrants’ were responsible for heinous crimes like rape. On a day when the S.O.P – ‘son of a president / sign of a pervert’ – Abhijit Mukherjee said that the protestors were ‘dented and painted’ women, on a day when yet another gang rape was reported in Delhi, and a young woman ended her life in Patiala because the police harassed her in Patiala following her complaint of rape – hundreds of young women and men, and many not so young and women and men, gathered under the single banner of ‘Justice for Women Now’ at noon in New Delhi, at the Nizamuddin ‘Sabz Burj’ with an intention to march to India Gate. They were stopped at the intersection of Zakir Husain Marg and Subramania Bharati Marg by several cordons of police. The police were arrayed across two intersections, several layers deep. The gathering was unarmed, peaceful, angry, joyous and disciplined. They were faced by a sullen array of police, armed with sticks and tear gas. The police did not let the gathering move towards India Gate, and the peacable, orderly gathering sat on the street for around two hours. There were several television and media crews.The primary demands articulated by the demonstration included ‘fast track’ processes for the 100,000 pending rape and sexual assault cases, the resignation of the police commissioner of Delhi, the drafting of gender sensitive and non-sexist laws, a call for a special session of parliament and a time bound commitment towards a massive expansion of safe public transport for women in metros.
The young women and men raised slogans about rape and sexual violence in Delhi, Kashmir, Manipur, Cchattisgarh and elsewhere. They spoke against custodial violence, marital rape and domestic violence. They spoke against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, gun culture, moral policing and patriarchy. They equated the ruling UPA regime with a misogynist, sexist order. There were no national flags. No macho aggression,. No calls for death, hanging and capital punishment. A new vibrant culture of public assertion has been born in Delhi. It is not going to go away. The political establishment, cutting across the government and the principal opposition has no clue to this new culture of politics and protest. It is going to be left far behind by a new generation of women and men who are staking their claim to the polis.
Here are a few images from the day’s demonstration in Delhi.