“Jo aspatal me leti hai who Bharat ki beti hai (the one who is lying in hospital bed is daughter of India),” a group young college and school students who had turned protesters on the sprawling lawns of India gate shouted slogans. For once, the unending debate of Bharat versus India had got submerged into one nation, fighting for a cause that affected all citizens, every single household — safety and security of women.
It was not an organised protest where thousands and thousands of protestors, mostly first time had come out of their hostel rooms, rented apartments, comfort of their houses, even from outstation to travel a distance to brave the Delhi winter chill, tear gas shells, water cannons and lathi charge by police for a cause they felt was so close to their heart. They faced the odds through the early morning, afternoon, evening, night and then again regrouping in morning only to face the fury of security establishment. But they remained undeterred. If India Gate was out of bounds, then they found other places, like Jantar Mantar their new protest venue. By evening, there are plans in every locality to have candle light march to register their protest.
The political class, from the ruling Congress Party, to the main Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, to the Leftist parties which is ever so inclined to organise a protest on an issue, to the much hyped youngest Aam Admi Party proved to be completely out of sync with the popular concerns and aspirations. After all rape in metropolis and rural India was a common place incident, the political class thought. Beyond the token discussion in Parliament, that too because the incident happened in Delhi and the Parliament was in session, no real concern was shown by anyone. The concern for the Manmohan Singh government, at Sonia Gandhi’s new found love for the constitutional amendment reservation in promotion for Scs and STs in promotion to upstage Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party than to have any meaningful discussion on an issue that stirred every conscious citizen and final a remedial course.
The political class has after all been thriving on reacting to their rivals undoing and media expose than taking an initiative to change “Disha” (Path) and “dasha” (Course), a term which had been earlier so fashionable with the Sangh Parivar and lately adopted by Congress though without success by the Congress. The Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj preferred to be away from the pitch putting out a simple message that the law should provide for hanging of rapists and a special session be convened. The government promptly shooting down the idea of a special session, the argument was the winter session ended only two days ago. The BJP’s job was apparently done by official spokesman condemning the police “atrocities” on protestors and demanding to know where was Prime Minister and seeking to know his opinion.
Engaged in protecting their personal and social turf, calculating the calendar distance of next parliamentary elections, fighting intra-party conflicts and keeping their hawk eye on main political rivals moves and spending all energy in planning a counter move, they all, somehow, lost the touch with the grassroots.
They almost forgot that there is the new rising India, which is young full of aspiration, conscious of their rights with a vision as to how India or Bharat should be in the 21st century where the state was expected to act as protector of their basic social life, go out in the evening for small fun and return home safely. Thanks to the various means of mobilisation, including some efforts by the Election Commission this young India also votes, but it seems that political parties will still take some time to realize that politics could be beyond caste and communal lines.
After 35 young protestors were injured, seven-time lathi charge, 125 tear gas shells fired, three water cannon carriers used for seven times through the morning and evening, home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde made an appearance in the protective confines of Shastri Bhawan, half-a-kilometer from his North Block office (an area which was under virtual seize of the protesting crowrd). Select few were drawn from the crowd, on whatever basis to speak to Sonia Gandhi yesterday night and again on today’s morning after police used force to have Rajpath cleared of protestors. But that meeting was to no effect, mostly because the gathered crowd was no trade union or political party rally where a belated simple assurance from country’s most powerful person would work to force cadre discipline. The much publicised minister of state for home, RPN Singh bus journey to evaluate security environment in the capital city failed to cut any ice, not without rationale.
In the process, the most significant fact went un-noticed by the public at large even as the security establishment has been very conscious of it. It is perhaps for the first time since Independence that the Vijay Chowk, the magnificent intersection at Raisina Hills, leding to country’s seat of power, the Parliament, North & South Block, offices of Prime Minister, defence minister, external affairs minister, home minister and finance minister, as also to the Rashtrapati Bhawan was seized and security cordons successively breached.
The Vijay Chowk and Rajpath (from India Gate to Rashtrapati Bhawan) to rest of the country has been known for the grandeur of Republic Day celebrations. The preparations for this year have already started and exactly a month away, the place will host full dress rehearsal, final parade on 26 January, ending with a spectacular Beating the Retreat on 30 January. But ahead of 63rd anniversary celebrations of India as Republic it stood history to citizen ire against a 23-year-old girl who was out with a friend to watch a movie, falling prey to a most horrific nightmare that a women could ever have, while returning home.
The brutalities caused in this incident has sparked off a prolonged pent up anger of young India whose voices no one was so far willing to hear. They want to have their say in Bharat Nirman, at least to have their concerns included.