By SHIVAM VIJ: The census counts ’urban agglomerations’, and the Census of India says that Mumbai is India’s largest urban agglomeration. This includes Mumbai’s suburbs. In counting Delhi, the suburbs are not added because They are separated by state boundaries. If you were to add suburbs of the ’National Capital Region’, Delhi’s population would be not 16 million but over 22 million, making it the world’s largest urban agglomeration after Tokyo. This bustling urban centre is made of its people. Today’s Delhi cannot be stereotyped as just the seat of power. There is more to Delhi than the endless roundabouts of Lutyens’ capital.
Delhi’s core – the Partition refugee Punjabi – is not xenophobic like the Marathi ’manoos’ of Mumbai. In fact Delhi today is what Bombay once was, India’s foremost cosmopolitan metropolis. It is the city of choice for people from across India to migrate to with dreams of riches.
A lot has been written about “the Delhi gang-rape”. 16 December 2012 started a conversation that doesn’t seem to end. This conversation has largely been about rape, not about Delhi. Continue reading In Delhi’s defence→
Protestors at the ‘Freedom Parade’ Rally of the Bekhauf Azadi Campaign, New Delhi, 26 January, 2013
Guest Post by Bekhauf Azadi (Freedom Without Fear) Campaign.
People’s Watch Over Parliament: February 21, 1st Day of the Budget Session, Jantar Mantar
Gather in large numbers – 12 PM onwards at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi.
Are Our Lawmakers Ready to Listen to the Voice of the Movement Against Sexual Violence?
There are days in which streaks of hope shine through dark clouds of misery. The 9th of February, 2013, was such a day.
The day broke with the news that the noose of the Indian state had finally seized the throat of Mohammad Afzal Guru after years of careful conspiracy. With ill-concealed admiration, the television screens reported the military swiftness, the secrecy, and the perfection with which a nuclear-powered state with one of the largest armies in the world escorted an unarmed, hapless Kashmiri to the gallows, performed its rituals, and pulled the bolt. As the murder was officially videographed with full legal sanction, the body was kept dangling for thirty minutes before it was pulled down and immediately buried in an ‘unmarked’ grave, protected by layers and layers of impenetrable walls. The case of Afzal Guru was thus brought to a ‘closure’. So hoped the state. Continue reading The Day Afzal Died: Nirmalangshu Mukherji→
Guest post by WARISHA FARASAT, who was present at the peaceful Jantar Mantar protest against the execution of Afzal Guru
We have been finally denied even the basic right to a peaceful protest. Two incidents over the last week have proven that only the right wing Hindutva groups have the right to protest in this country; the unbridled right to disrupt all other peaceful protests; and to ensure that the civil liberties groups are pushed even further against the wall. Two days ago, a peaceful student protest against Narendra Modi’s speech at Delhi University was met with brutal response, which has been reported extensively. Today, as Shuddhabrata Sengupta has poignantly pointed in his earlier post there were peaceful silent protests against the secretive hanging of Afzal Guru, and also for the abolition of the death penalty from the criminal statute books at Jantar Mantar. But what unraveled thereafter was shameful. The police watched and participated while young and brave University students, several of them Kashmiri, were beaten up. I saw young women with scarves, which were seen as a marker of their identity being targeted, groped, beaten, humiliated, abused, and finally arrested. Other respected civil liberties activists, lawyers, and even journalists were abused, kicked, beaten, and their faces blackened. Continue reading Do we have the right to a peaceful protest?: Warisha Farasat→
A small group of citizens, mainly young people from different universities in Delhi, and people associated with civil rights groups and initiatives, had gathered at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi this afternoon at 1:00 pm to express their protest against the execution by hanging of Afzal Guru at 8:00 am this morning in Tihar Prison.
The protest was dignified and entirely peaceful. It was interrupted suddenly when a large mob gathered and began heckling the protestors. I was present there, and I clearly heard this mob of young men hurl, unprintable abuses at the men and women who were peacefully protesting against the execution of Afzal Guru. Some of them wore saffron scarves that clearly identified them as being the storm troopers of the far right. They repeatedly chanted violent and incendiary slogans which included the following – “shoot them all”, “kill the traitors”. These alternated with patriotic chants. I have never seen a more nakedly bloodthirsty exhibition of the far right wing version of Indian nationalism on the streets of Delhi. The mob made threatening gestures and advanced towards the line of protestors. Continue reading Peaceful Protest Against Afzal Guru’s Execution at Jantar Mantar Broken Up by Right Wing Goons and Delhi Police→
The UPA Govt, in a Cabinet meeting held on 1 February, has introduced an ordinance that it claims will address the most urgent concerns on sexual violence. In fact, the Government has been completely reluctant to acknowledge and implement the Justice Verma Committee recommendations: the PM refused to accept it from Justuce Verma, the Ministry of Home Affairs removed it from their website, the Govt never adopted any transparent process of discussion to decide the way forward on implementing the recommendations, rather they said Justice Verma ‘exceeded his brief’. Now, they claim that their ordinance has ‘implemented’ the Justice Verma recommendations. Is this true?
The fact is that the Government’s ordinance is a mockery of the letter and spirit of the Justice Verma recommendations. Why? Let us take a closer look.
[ Protestors from the Bekhauf Azaadi/Freedom Without Fear Campaign Demanding Complete Implementation of the Justice Verma Committee Recommendations during the Freedom Parade to Reclaim the Republic on Republic Day, 26 January, 2012 in New Delhi. ]
So, first they come with water cannons and tear gas, and then they come with an ordnance.
Yesterday, the Union Cabinet decided to rush drafting an ordinance in response to the massive protests against rape and sexual violence that have been occurring ever since the 16th of December, 2012. According to preliminary reports, the ordnance, which will be signed into law by the President of India before Parliament even meets, flies in the face of the detailed and exhaustive list of recommendations made by the Justice Verma Committee (JVC) which had been hailed by the protesting young people and a large number of women’s organisations. In other words, the government feels no need to discuss the JVC in parliament. It feels no need to even give time and an opportunity for its recommendations to sink in, for there to be more thinking, more ideas, more awareness of the issues and questions at stake. No wonder, the government had so hastily pulled down the JVC report from its own websites after it had been released. Continue reading Water Cannons, Tear Gas, Ordinance: How the State Responds to Protests Against Rape and the Justice Verma Committee→
(This article began as a rejoinder to Hindi columnist Raj Kishor [Vaam se dakshin tak ek hi tark, (‘The same argument from Left to Right’), Rashtriya Sahara, January 13 2013], but it has also provided an occasion to address some common misconceptions about women’s freedom and capitalism.)
When women demand ‘freedom,’ why does it immediately raise the spectre of ‘licentiousness’?
Why, in other words, is women’s freedom automatically taken by many as equivalent with ‘licence,’ whereas the similar freedom on the part of men is never branded as ‘licence’?
This question arose in my mind after reading a piece by Hindi columnist Raj Kishor. Raj Kishor’s argument is that those – from Left leaders like I, to those whom he sees as representatives of the market – who are calling for women’s freedom are ‘consigning women into the fire of capitalism.’ When he hears me use the word ‘azaadi’ (freedom) he calls such freedom ‘utshrnkhalta’ (literally ‘unbridled-ness’, or licentiousness). He says and I, and the capitalist market alike, are calling for women to be free to ‘break all bounds of licentiousness’ if they so choose. Of course, Raj Kishor anticipates my criticism of his use of the word ‘utshrnkhalta’, since he says that is a word that ‘has feminists up in arms, demanding with red (infuriated) eyes the definition of ‘utshrnkhalta’.
Guest Post from BEKHAUF AZAADI / Freedom Without Fear Campaign
UPA Government: Implement Justice Verma Committee Recommendations Without Delay!
The Report submitted by the Justice Verma committee marks an important measure of victory for the ongoing people’s movement against sexual violence, as well as for the decades of the women’s movement and democratic movement in India.
(Photographs courtesy: Pipit Apriani who is a Jakarta based activist and a blogger)
Protests against sexual violence are spreading across Asia. Last week demonstrations against rape and sexual violence were held in Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Inspired by the protests held in Delhi for last three weeks, hundreds of university students and activists march on the streets of Jakarta few hundred meters away from the Presidential Palace for a world free of sexual violence. The call for the protest march was given by a coalition of University Students’ Unions and civil society organizations in response to the death of RI, a 11-year-old girl, who died last week after suffering severe vaginal and rectal injuries due to repeated sexual assaults. Continue reading From Delhi to Djakarta, Protests Against Sexual Violence Across Borders: Bonojit Husain→
The death of the young girl brought incommensurable grief for the ‘Indian’ people. A national angst ensued with divergent voices seeking divergent ends: justice, death penalty, fast track courts, end to patriarchy, chemical castration, and a long list that cannot be spelt out here. There was a glimmer of hope that the discursiveness would ensue a quintessentially democratic process of debate, discussion, and deliberation amongst the people. The Indian state with its long-standing reputation wouldn’t allow for that to happen. It had to continue on its pet peeve of Breaking the Collective! The people’s movement in Koodankulam, the anti-corruption movement, the movement for seperate Telangana are some of the many instances that remind us of this pet avocation of the Indian state being pursued in recent times, almost, vocationally. However cynical it may sound, amidst the entire candle lighting and sloganeering, we failed to realise that the protest in Delhi was happening on the terrain that the government decided, in a manner that it wished for it to play out, and was party to the people it wanted to see there. I wish to argue that the closing down of the metro stations has a relation to the nature of the protests at Jantar Mantar. Furthermore it concurs with the tactics of chocking people’s movements logistically and stifling the collective by pathologizing the everyday life of masses. The tragedy of this lies in the fact that such actions of the state have become so recurrent that they have entered our common sense and they present themselves as normal and logical responses. Albeit they have been rationalized by invoking a specious reference to law, order, and safety, there is a need to unpack such a rationalization. My attempt is to extract these actions from that location of common sense and present them for public scrutiny. Through this essay, I would like to draw the connections between the democratic protests happening in locations across the country and state action in dealing with them. In doing so, I hope to bring to notice how the Indian state uses its machinery to purge protests of their democratic tenor and eventually, at least, attempts to break the collective. Continue reading Breaking the Collective – Notes from Jantar Mantar & Koodankulam: Vivek Vellanki→
Protests against Sexual Violence continue in Delhi. Earlier this morning, there was a gathering to protest against the gruesome sexual violence committed on Soni Sori while in custody in Chhattisgarh under the supervision of Ankit Garg, Superintendent of Police, Dantewada. Ankit Garg was awarded with a presidential police medal on Republic Day (January 26) in 2012.
The girl wasn’t aware that the Udyog Bhavan Metro station in central Delhi had been shut down. In the Metro going to Gurgaon, she needed to get down at Udyog Bhavan. Her friend was waiting in a car outside the station. She waited at the door. The train stopped too, but the gates didn’t open. The PA system — the annoying PA system of the Delhi Metro that never stops saying something or the other — fell silent. The station was deserted. Not a soul in sight.
The girl asked fellow passengers — all of us men around her — which would be the nearest station that would be open. All the options were far off. Ramakrishna Ashram station on one end, for instance, was four kms. away. “Now what?” the girl asked her friend on the phone in a tone that blamed him, in a way only lovers can. “Now what?” she kept repeating. Continue reading The epiphanic moment of the lathi charge→
She was sitting among a group of young men and women at Jantar Mantar, shouting “Hang those bastards.” When the slogan lost its effectiveness, it turned to “We want Justice,” “Inquilab Zindabad,” and then “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. Borrowed and heard slogans, but they came from a very real place. “I work in Saket but live in Dwarka.” That is a long distance to travel especially at night. She nodded. “I don’t like it when my parents tell me to come home early just because other people are at fault,” she said anger rising in her voice. She didn’t know any of the people in the group she was sitting with. “We just met here. I had come with a friend who I can’t locate at the moment.” Continue reading The things you learn at a protest: Aakshi Magazine→
[ Click to play above Youtube video of young women and men, led by Com.Lokesh (‘Lucky’) of Stree Mukti Sangathan (Women’s Liberation Organization) articulate their desires on the ‘Take Back the Night’ night walk and street party from Anupam PVR Complex to the road outside Select City Walk in Saket, New Delhi on the night of the last night of 2012 and into the early hours of 2013. ]
That girl, the one without the name. The one just like us. The one whose battered body stood for all the anonymous women in this country whose rapes and deaths are a footnote in the left-hand column of the newspaper.
Sometimes, when we talk about the history of women in India, we speak in shorthand. The Mathura rape case. The Vishaka guidelines. The Bhanwari Devi case, the Suryanelli affair, the Soni Sori allegations, the business at Kunan Pushpora. Each of these, the names of women and places, mapping a geography of pain; unspeakable damage inflicted on women’s bodies, on the map of India, where you can, if you want, create a constantly updating map of violence against women. Continue reading For Anonymous: Nilanjana Roy→
This morning, Delhi woke up to the news that the 23 year old Paramedic that the city had taken to its heart had breathed her last at around two in the morning at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore. From early morning, sms messages, phone calls and facebook and twitter posts and updates, informed the city about a condolence meeting scheduled for 11 am in the morning at Jantar Mantar. I was there by 11, and realized that a lot of people were having problems getting there because a shameless administration had decided to shut down entry and exits on to reportedly ten stations of the Delhi Metro. Buses were also being diverted. Despite this, a sizable crowd had gathered by around noon. Two minutes silence was observed. Sucheta Dey (AISA, JNU) and Kavita Krishnan (AIPWA) spoke briefly.
Both emphasized the need for a peaceful, dignified gathering to pay respects to the brave fighting spirit of the deceased woman. Kavita Krishnan spoke about the need to combat patriarchy everywhere, in the family, at home, in the workplace, in colleges, schools and universitities. And called for an to end the culture of impunity that lets men think that they can get away with rape and sexual violence. Continue reading Remembering the 23 Year Old Who Brought Delhi Together→