That night at Freedom Park


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I didn’t initially want to write on this issue. Because every line I would pen down would be a cliché; Every statistic mentioned, every opinion formed would be something read, heard and written a million times over, presented with just different vocabulary. I didn’t want to join the bandwagon of writers ,bloggers, concerned citizens   ,intra and extra institutional  intellectuals voicing concern over this heinous  crime, the duality of morality in this society, advocating women rights and dignity when they were too busy minding their own business not so long ago. But then, after that night I thought may be, I should.

I wanted a medium for excretion of my own feelings over this and even though candle light protests reek of tokenism, that was the least, and under the circumstances, the most I could do. So, I browsed through Facebook for pages related to the cause. There were pages  where discussion was more focused on  the dress code and which mall would be the ideal place for protest which made me think updating Facebook statuses and generating a few likes was more pragmatic an approach than joining such protests. It’s amazing how hard it is to shrug off hypocrisy even in times of great crises or through the noblest of causes. Then, I stumbled upon this event to be organized at Freedom park which I thought would be a reasonable enough place to express the angst.

Now, Bangalore is no Delhi. There weren’t thousands of people battling lathis, tear gas shells, water cannons, Delhi’s temperatures, Police brutality and political ball games – just a bunch of confused youth who were struggling to decide where to start the protest from.

What could have caused this uproar? May be the constant helplessness of not being able to do anything, guilt tripping on the silence or participation on abuse of women, or the threshold of tolerance that just broke.

Whatever it was, it was building. That evening the area bounded by the highway and the tall walls of prison turned park was slowly but steadily filling up with people belonging to disparate groups-college students, IT professionals, 60 year old ladies and 13 year old girls.

There were speeches made, issues debated in what was a leaderless protest. Nobody had a representative, nobody required one. Tried to find superficiality in this movement but I couldn’t. People weren’t there for the camera, for the press or to bolster private interests. They were there because they gave a damn.

There were slogans that reverberated through the cold gusty winds of Bangalore, banners that were raised higher than what seemed like the tallest of the buildings. There were girls who shared their personal experiences ,men  who were tired of being viewed as potential rapists, mothers who cried at the state of this society. There  was  discussion on the need to change the -pre historic  mindset that pervades one and all in the name of culture, customs and tradition. There were talks on the Criminal law Amendment  bill and the  need to table it on the parliament. There were petitions filed for justice to the victim and stringent laws on woman abuse to be sent to the President for approval

“There are 370 rapists in the parliament  and assemblies today.And you expect us to have Faith in a system like this to create laws  and protect our women”– said one.

“There have been millions of fast track courts for millions of such cases-like the one in Mumbai molestation case ,where two boys were killed trying to protect their female friends.One year has passed and whats the development? – Zero  “echoed another.

There were slogans like “ who sarkar nikkammi hai, Soniya jiski Mummy hai”  and “ Sheila kit oh Jawani hai,Hamari toh badnaami hai”  that made my lips widen in spite of the gravity of the situation.

The contents of the speeches were familiar, but  the tone was genuine. Nobody understood a word when that women broke into tears while expressing herself in Kannada, but her despair reached the hearts of one and all.Those tears were real,the pain in the voices of people present there was real-far more real than the camera ready tears of Sheila Dixit,the concerned   faces of the TRP driven Media representatives the content in the statements of the dysfunctional bureaucratic officials,aloof  government and manipulative opposition. it’s easy to be cynical about these protests.It’s easy to say that  the people who gathered  were  mostly students who had mugged their way through NCERT books and IT  professional  who spent most of their day in front of a 14 inch computer screen day after day ,every day  were not a true representation of the society.they represent mostly an intellectual class far insulated from the ground realities  and are driven more by rage and less by practicality.But while  most of the world around was keeping  busy with afternoon brunches,evening banters and night outs, the fact that 500 odd people were standing in December cold with candles dripping between their fingers,no matter how symbolic a gesture ,invoked far more powerful a message than a million shallow words.

At a time when shock has given way to boredom, rage has been replaced by exhaustion,And Sachin’s retirement has more people worried than the plight of a 23 year old girl brutally raped and violated ,one can rightfully question the validation of these protests and our existence as a society.But when one sees people  fighting relentlessly on the streets of Delhi and  other parts of the country one gets a feeling  that all is not lost.That there is still enough reason not to give up on this society.That when we have lost hope in everything, the government, the bureaucracy,the police, the courts , the promises , we have regained our hope in something far more important- Ourselves.That there are people who care, who give a shit.

That is reason enough to keep me hoping.

Whether this fire will remain ignited or will fade away like the candle melting away between my fingers that night, only time will tell—that night when I stood with hundred others for that girl named Damini.

 

If not us then who,If not now then when.         

                                                                               – –  Hillel The Elder                      

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