This post may not appear to be directly related to the raison d’etre of this blog–South Asian books—but I don’t see it that way. I am interested in feminist issues, and the protests that are happening in India at the moment should be of interest to everyone concerned about Indian society.
Today, Hamish and I went to the protests at the Jantar Mantar in Delhi. Since the 23 year old medical student who was gang-raped on 16th December sadly died of her injuries just a day or two ago, this weekend has seen a renewal of the protests that started last week but that had declined in recent days. Protestors have gathered for numerous reasons, and not everyone wanted the same thing: to expel their grief, to express anger at the government for the perceived lack of will to act on cases of violence against women, to call for stronger punishment, such as the death penalty, and to more generally speak out against the lack of respect for women in Indian society. It was one of the most moving things I have ever witnessed. Despite ten central Delhi metro stations remaining closed this weekend, a couple of thousand people were at the Jantar Mantar when we were, mid-afternoon. It wasn’t easy getting to or from (unless you had a driver, of course, although there were road closures to navigate, too) but we got the metro as close as we could and walked the remaining kilometres. There was shouting, singing, clapping, sitting, candles, old and young women and men and children, the majority being students I would say, and a huge number of police, both ordinary and the riot squad. But all remained peaceful. We had some interesting and insightful conversations with other protestors. There were very few foreigners there (or who were visibly obvious as foreigners, anyway) so a lot of people assumed we were from the media, and asked which station we were with. I was sorry to disappoint them! Here are my photos. I don’t necessarily agree with all the opinions espoused. The protests were not coordinated by any one group, and there was a broad range of perspectives on offer. What was agreed upon was that violence against women in India, and everywhere, must stop. How to make this happen is contested. Some of the best commentary on the issue comes from feminist writers, and I highly recommend the following pieces:
This is Urvashi Butalia’s article in The Hindu. Urvashi is one of my feminist heroes, I love her history writing and her other work. Also, Nilanjana Roy’s blog:
These links represent a more measured feminist perspective, one that I largely agree with. But I wanted to share the range of perspectives I saw being emotionally expressed today. I hope some of this anger can give way to more widespread introspection, that could lead to meaningful change.