"Everyone, please stand up for one-minute silence for the people who died due to lynching" came an announcement from the stage and almost a thousand people stood up in silence, but one person didn't -- wheelchair-seated 82-year-old Mrs Kapoor Shukla.
The announcement was made by Saba Dewan, a Gurugram-based independent film-maker, whose Facebook post last week, "Not in My Name", to protest against lynchings had gone viral. On Wednesday evening, thousands turned up at Jantar Mantar in the city for the protest and Mrs Kapoor was among them.
Seated on the wheelchair and holding a poster, which read "Lynch Map of India", the octogenarian said: "I detest what's happening and we shouldn't allow this to happen." The 82-year-old was born in the present-day Pakistan and came to India after partition when she was just 12. She said that "We all lived like one" and added that she used to tie "rakhi" to two Muslim brothers when she was in Pakistan.
"We're all one and we can't go on killing minorities. This is not done, not done!" she said turning her head from side to side. Meanwhile, Dewan said from the dais that she couldn't sleep on the night she heard about the death of 16-year-old Junaid and that made her write the Facebook post: "Not in My Name" -- which brought thousands of people on the street to protest against the lynchings.
"Junaid's family was supposed to attend today's (Wednesday) protest, but they were called to the police station yesterday (Tuesday) and they were attacked by some people on their way back," Dewan said. "Shame...!" cried the crowd in unison. Many among the crowd held out a poster showing a blood-stained slipper, a blood covered stick and blood splattered on the ground, and "Not in my name" written across it.
Dewan's speech was followed by poems and songs reminding of lynchings and communal problems. At the extreme back of about 2,000-strong crowd were four schoolgoing girls, holding a six-feet-long banner which extended from their shoulders to legs. A hole was made in the banner so that 14-year-old Manisha's head could peep through.
"We came to know about the protest through news and Facebook," Manisha said. "If it can happen to a 15-year-old Junaid, it can happen to us too," one of the other three girls said. The girls said they made the poster at their park in Gole Market, which is about 15 minutes walking distance from Jantar Mantar and added that they came alone.
At this stage, voice of one of the family members of Pehlu Khan, who was lynched in Alwar of Rajasthan, came over the public address system: "When the Home Minister lied in Parliament that the lynching didn't happen, won't the police also lie? We know that the people who lynched him still roam free in the streets."
"Shame...!" pat came the crowd's acknowledgement. Twenty-five-year-old Gavin, who is from Canada, could be seen trying to decipher the poems being recited from the stage. "The thing about protests is that government will feel the pressure. Maybe things change today or tomorrow, or maybe it takes a decade," he told IANS.
Gavin has been working for an NGO in Delhi and has been in the city for the past six months and talked about how Ambedkar's "Annihilation of Caste" formed his understanding of Dalits issues in the country. "I've been reading about atrocities against Dalits and Muslims for the past six months here and protests like this show that the society is progressive and responding to it," he added.
"Muslim lives matter, All lives matter" read one of the posters, another had a cow's image on one-half and "Not in My Name" inscribed on the other half. Social activist, Medha Patkar, who came for the protest, told IANS that fundamentalists think they were winning by dividing people to create vote banks.
"There should be more protests like this," she added. "Of course, lynchings have seen a steep increase after the present government came to power in 2014," said Dewan. She said that the campaign "Not in My Name" started with one voice and now people from various cities across India and abroad were holding "Not in My Name" in their cities.
At around 8 p.m, as the protest was nearing its end, it started to rain and as everyone ran for cover, a group of youths took over the protest area. Under the yellow light of the street lights, with loud drumming, they continued the protest with their sloganeering: "From Casteism, Azaadi (freedom)", "From Brahmanism, Azaadi", "Gaurakshaks Murdabad."