The Real Reason the #DelhiGangRape Protests Were Crushed
by Rita Banerji
“It was so disrespectful! In our days we wouldn’t dare approach the Chief Minister or President’s house like a band of howling hooligans!” This was a comment made by one of my parents’ family friends, in context of the student uprising in the aftermath of the brutal gang rape and murder of young woman in Delhi.
In response I told her, that I was amazed at how courteous the young people in the Delhi protest had been. Because as a student in the U.S., every protest march that I had participated in, made a stop in front of the President’s house, as it made its way to the steps of the Capitol building. And we did not mince our words or swallow our anger. We expressed those with our demands, as we believed we were entitled to. I remember standing in front of the White House gate with thousands of others yelling slogans like “Bush you liar! We’ll set your ass on fire!” And then someone in the crowd said, “Not loud enough. We need make sure he heard.” So on the count of 1-2-3 there was another chorus – so loud, it felt like it must have resounded through the whole city.
In fact one of the other complaints about the Delhi protests was that some of the students got violent. To that I’d say, that it’s remarkable that the students held their patience as long as they did. I can’t imagine, a youth protest against violence on women in Washington D.C. or London, not retaliating if they’re attacked the way these students were. In fact, I think the retaliation would have been much fiercer in other countries, like it was at Kent State University during the anti-Vietnam war protest! The Indian government was hitting the protesters with water cannons from day one! Then they brought the police out in battle-gear, with batons and tear gas which they used recklessly on unarmed students, whose only ‘weapons’ were, very polite, words of demand for safety of women, and government/police accountability!!
There are numerous photographs of 6-7 police men, in full battle gear, wielding batons from all sides on a cowering woman on the ground, or 4-5 of them dragging a woman across the ground like a hunted animal. But there is not one photograph of a gang of students beating up a policeman. Even the policeman who died at the protests (whose death the government first tried to pin on the students), turns out, died without being touched. He just dropped to the ground due to a cardiac arrest. A photo of this man shows that he was being helped by some of the protestors nearby, who loosened his clothing and tried to help him breathe!!!
It is interesting how to the older generations in India, the “irreverence” of this protest as they call it was such a big shocker. After all, in India we are raised with the idea of reverence for hierarchy and power. Governments violate people’s human rights.
Companies violate workers human rights. Doctors violate patients’ human rights. Police and politicians violate citizens human rights. Upper castes violate the lower castes human rights. Men blatantly violate women’s human rights. Parents’ violate their children’s human rights. But the way we see it in India — this is the privilege of hierarchy!! The ones lower down, the ones whose rights are trampled, cannot demand their human rights or accountability from the abusers! But they can wait their turn, till they are higher up in the hierarchy so they violate someone else’s rights!
That one week siege of the nations’ capitol was a generation wanting to break this pattern of hierarchy and abuse of power. It was demanding to be heard, demanding an answer and action from the government it has voted into the seat of power. The seat of power belongs not to the person who occupies it, but to the people who elect their representatives to it – THAT’S DEMOCRACY! It is the PREROGATIVE of the public in any democracy to directly address the head of state and the seat of government!!!
Till such time I can stand at the gate of my Prime Minister or President, and FREELY and DIRECTLY express my DISSATISFACTION with them, my DEMANDS, indeed my ANGER at their corruption and incompetency, INDIA IS NOT A DEMOCRACY!!!
IT IS AN ANARCHY THAT CAN’T EVEN DIGEST THE IDEA OF FREE SPEECH!
ABOUT THE WRITER
Rita Banerji is an author and gender activist, and the founder of The 50 Million Missing Campaign to end India’s female genocide. Her book ‘Sex and Power: Defining History Shaping Societies,‘ is a historical and social look at how the relationship between gender and power in India has led to the ongoing female gendercide. Her website is www.ritabanerji.com She blogs at Revolutions in my Space and tweets at @Rita_Banerji