Kathua and Unnao rapes: Azad Maidan boils as people's anger peaks
Citizens protesting the Kathua and Unnao rapes come out in hordes, setting the SoBo ground on fire with their sloganeering and banners
Civil society finds its voice at Azad Maidan on Friday afternoon. Pic/Suresh Karkera
The protest site at Azad Maidan yesterday spewed red hot molten lava. The unforgiving April heat could not match the sting of anger of the protestors, many of whom were entering Azad Maidan for the first time.
The protestors came from a cross-section of people, and "All of us are here because we are angry, outraged and shocked. Will our presence and protest, the banners, the slogans make any difference? We do not know, but civil society has to come together" was the all-round sentiment, as the afternoon sun blazed down with a small shamiana offering some shield from the mercury.
With Metro III work taking over a small portion of the Maidan, the protest site was tucked way inside. An angry Nilan Singh, as she wended her way inside, said, "Like-minded people have come together, but the way we are being herded deep inside the Maidan, we will only be talking to each other, when, in fact, we should be talking to the man on the street, the woman walking by."
As Binaifer Bharucha said, "It is horrific how these crimes are being politicised", Ganesh Yadav added, "People say let law take its course. Yet, what do they say to the fact that lawmakers themselves are shielding the accused?"
As many banners reading 'Unite for Asifa' went up, and slogans rent the air, protestors asked as one, "What happened to beti bachao, beti padhao? " Chandra Srinivasan said sarcastically, "Here, it is not beti bachao, it is beti ko maaro."
Protestor Suren A said, "The Unnao crime is grabbing headlines because of the death of the father." Surbhi Dwivedi said, "The Prime Minister goes on hunger strike for silly reasons but does not speak about this incident." "Why are no women ministers speaking out, loud and clear? We heard no strong statements yesterday; there are some now because of pressure," said Abigail D'Souza, Joycia T and Karen D'Costa.
As protestors streamed in, Sujata C said, "The outrage is because of efforts to protect the perpetrators. On social media, we still see responses like 'Oh you cannot blame PM Narendra Modi for everything'."
For Tata Institute of Social Sciences professor, and also a poet, Ashwini Kumar, "We see a new rape culture in society. Earlier, we had feudal rapes and patriarchal rapes; today, we see the state as well as the police party to the crime. So where does one go for justice?" Cambridge research student Sagnik Dutta, who was one of the first to reach the protest site, said "Asifa's rape was a hate crime, and we should not be afraid to label it so."
"The Nirbhaya case caused outrage, but obviously, it has not been enough," shouted Macson Almeida, while Selina Dias said, "It is time we keep our ridiculous biases aside."
While most protestors had come in individual capacity, there were some who arrived representing an organisation. An activist from Mumbai's Forum Against Oppression of Women rued, "Goondas have been unleashed in society. There seems to be no rule of law, whether it comes to murder or rape or arson."
"This is about justice, plain and simple. It is about whether this government is capable of giving it," signed off Mateen Khan from the All India National Congress, as slogans reached a crescendo.
Catch up on all the latest Mumbai news, crime news, current affairs, and also a complete guide on Mumbai from food to things to do and events across the city here. Also download the new mid-day Android and iOS apps to get latest updates
Know Your Rights: Equality at Home and Work