Monday, December 24, 2012

One Evening at Raisina Hill

[Disclaimer: This is a detailed account of a personal experience, and may contain minute details uninteresting to you.]

After witnessing the outrage over Twitter against the heinous incident of rape and attempted murder in the capital city of India, I found myself to be in the same place for 4 days. I could not loose this opportunity to witness, participate, and engage in one of the largest spontaneous uprisings of young boys and girls that I can remember. So there I was, walking out of Central Secretriat Metro Stn at 6pm on Saturday, observing the various shades of Indian youth trying to assert themselves.

While I moved towards Rajpath, I saw one young agitated guy trying to damage an already fallen police barricade, and running came another one (his friend, possibly) stopping him furiously, and asking him whether he is here to damage public property or demand justice and safety of women. A smile appeared on my face, as I saw a small but significant example of self-correction and self-restraint. The barricade was lifted and put on side of the road, and I moved ahead.

As I walked towards Vijay Chowk, the centre of all action and attention, I saw many small groups of young boys and girls - the same ones, I guess, who you can see hanging out at CCDs and McDonald's - raising slogans at their own pitch and pace. What united them was the call for exemplary punishment to the rapists and a safer Delhi for its daughters and sisters. With time, more people trickled in and the small groups merged into a larger one - sitting peacefully on the cold surface - some had candles in their hands, some had banners, while some like me were empty-handed contributing just by voice and actions.

Moving further ahead towards the aisles of power that be (Rashtrapati Bhawan, North Block and South Block), I heard small circles of protesters giving heated statements to media personnel - some of which made sense to me, while some didn't. As I moved closer, I was stopped by a group of policemen. Showing that I was unarmed and meant no harm, I was allowed to walk around. And I was standing in front of the last barricade - separating the two Indias - young, energetic protesters on one side, and battalions of police and paramilitary forces with heavy bundobast of water canons, anti-riot brigades, tear shells & guns on other side protecting the seats of power. Shouts of "Sheila Dixt Haye Haye" were suppressed spontaneously, and were replaced with slogans of "We Want Justice".

Amid all this, everybody heard some sort of "Akashvani" - the summary of Home Minister's press conference was being read out by ACP Mr. D C Shrivastav, further asking that the protesters should end the protest since their demands have been listened to. A few girls also joined from top of police van, saying that they were randomly selected from the protesting crowd to meet the Home Minister, and were asked to convey his message to the public. The public lost its calm and asked aggressively why Home Minister could not come to address the public himself - genuine question in my opinion, "Why do our leaders and representatives need messengers to interact with aggrieved citizens, and expect us to feel satisfied with it?" They must be really afraid - I thought.

I joined a group of young men talking to ACP D C Shrivastav about the status of investigation in this particular case - DNA tests, identification parade, medical reports - and that law would take its "due course". Everything looked calm and quiet, until a rogue element started hurling abuses at the ACP. The ACP called upon to catch hold of the person, which the police force took as a signal to jump the barricades and beat the protesters - even those peacefully sitting. I saw policemen hitting out at mediapersons' cameras and pulling out their wires as they captured their faces. I stood there amazed at what just happened in a matter of few seconds.

I was pushed away by 2-3 constables to go back home and not come back, as the protests are over. I started walking slowly, but the constables were not satisfied with my unafraid demeanor and I received a blow of the cane on my legs asking me to run away. I turned and shouted at them angrily. I was joined by some others, and within next few minutes, the police was back behind the barricades and the protesters were back to the same spot. We identified the policeman who beat me, and asked for his identity. The "fattu" man hung his head in shame and ran behind the wall of his fellow policemen not to be seen again. The crowd became agitated asking for the reasons of the sudden crackdown. The slogans turned from being anti-rape to anti-tyranny. Most policemen claimed innocence saying that their baton has not hit one single innocent person throughout the day. What chameleons - I thought!

With time, the protesters regrouped and situation became normal. With increasing cold at 10pm, only some highly determined ones held ground while others started moving back. The police contingents also started dispersing with orders to report back at 6am the next day. Things attained normalcy in some time and while I walked back to Metro Stn, agitated and tormented inside at the state of the nation, wondering what kind of crippled democracy India has become, whether this is just a low in the story of India and whether the Indian youth will fight back for a brighter future. Only time will tell.

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