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→
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→
The curious Ways of Indian Democracy,from India Gate to the Slum Habitat
It has taken a horrific tragedy and a precious young life to stir the conscience of a nation. Or so one would like to believe! Reality may not still cater to our wishes. Our grand old civilization is also a culture of billion brutalities on its women and countless other victims. One can only hope that it changes for the better, even if a little, after what it has witnessed through the last fifteen days of the last year. Greater probability, however, is for such hopes to be belied yet again. It may take a lot more to lift the weight of an age-old way of life. After all, one would not have expected that rapes and molestations would be reported from across the country, and even from Delhi itself, right in the middle of anger, sorrow and protests that seemed to engulf the country. One would expect that the rapists and the criminals would lie low for a while till the situation returns to normal. Least of all would have one expected that women would be harassed, and one or two would even be molested, during those very protests that were taking place at the India Gate and Jantar Mantar. Continue reading Run with Gender, Hunt with Class: Prachee Sinha→
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→
Guest post by BOBBY KUNHU, carrying the debate on the Anti-corruption movement forward
I am distinctly uncomfortable with predictions – using either scientific or unscientific tools. For me it smacks of charlatanry – from astrology to psephology to stock market speculation. But with the charade that was unleashed for the past few days on news television by the mainstream media and of course at Jantar Mantar and a few other town squares across the “mainstream” Indian political landscape by Anna Hazare’s fast – I did dare to make an attempt – both at prediction and more comfortably with dissent. I foretold the outcome of the fast tableau at an emergency meeting that was convened by some co-travellers at the Salem Citizen’s Forum to debate on whether and how to show solidarity to Anna Hazare…
…Well, it is not just Anna Hazare and his team who won this match comfortably. All actors who joined the show have won the match. Everyone – the “civil society” that sat on fast at Jantar Mantar and other places, the Corporate media, the glamour world, the Government, political establishment of all hues and shades – everyone who bothered to join the game. It was like bathing in the Ganges during the Maha Kumbh – everyone’s sins were washed away. And of course nobody in their right minds regardless of political affiliations or ideologies could take a position “for corruption”!!! A veritable Bush-ian position — either you are with Anna Hazare or you are with corruption. And yes, India Incorporated has won the match and it is time for celebrations!
Last evening I went to Jantar Mantar after many years. It is a road I pass often, looking at the sad and melancholic little protests that line the kerb, whispering to an indifferent Capital the million mutinies of our banana plantation republic.
Last evening was different. There were perhaps four to five hundred people, many, but not all Kashmiri, men and women, who had gathered to protest against the wanton destruction of life in the Kashmir valley by the security apparatus of the Indian state in the last few weeks and months. 45 civilian deaths in 8 weeks signals a state losing its head. Especially when the deaths occur when the police and paramilitaries fire live bullets on unarmed or stone pelting mobs. When stones, or unarmed bodies are met with ammunition, you know that the state has no respect whatsoever for bare life. That this should happen in a state that calls itself a democracy should make all of us who are its citizens reflect on how hollow ‘democracy’ feels to the mother or friend of a young boy or girl who is felled by a ‘democratic’ bullet.
Ahead of the Commonwealth games, the capital city of the country with aspirations towards being anointed First Side-Kick to the only super-power left in the world, is busy cleaning up. Beggars, protesters, poor-looking people in general, out, out, all out.
Pholpata, her child and a friend inside a mobile court in a mini-bus, caught begging and brought before a magistrate who will decide whether to jail them for a year or release them. [The Independent on Sunday]
Meanwhile, of course, the labourers working day and night to complete the endless amounts of construction required to host an event of this magnitude, are “working and living in highly dangerous and deplorable conditions; earning less than the stipulated minimum wage; with no access to basic sanitation and health facilities; and, lacking safety equipment”, found a Committee appointed by the Delhi High Court.
Continuing the saga of national triumph, below, we haveAKHIL KATYAL and SHALINI SHARMA on the forced evictions of protesters from Jantar Mantar.
The Delhi State Government and New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) seem to have a particularly limited vision of a beautiful city. In the run up to the Commonwealth Games, Delhi is seeing a massive beautification drive which is really about an intolerant attitude towards democratic dissent and towards the urban poor. It is an idea of beauty that deals with urban protest or poverty simply by excising it from view.