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Arunima Maharshi

IWB Blogger

She Participated In A Protest March For The First Time And These Were Her Heartfelt Emotions

  • IWB Post
  •  April 14, 2018

On Friday, 13 April, Mumbai’s civil society citizens, women and child rights organisations and political parties AAP and Congress organised a protest to demand justice for the eight-year-old victim in the Kathua gang rape, and the Unnao rape survivor and her father who was killed in police custody after being arbitrarily arrested.

We call them rape ‘cases’, we question the mentality of those men, we think about where we are heading as a society, as a country, but then you think about the girl, and the thought of that situation, the horror, her pain, leaves you feeling mentally paralysed.

But emotions won’t help us in getting the innocent girls the justice they deserve, and neither will they help us in making the Government answer our questions. We have to protest, we have to step out and raise our voices! With similar thoughts, Pallavi Prasad took out to participate in the march, yesterday.

In an article for Quint, she wrote, “I marched for the first time. I confess, I am guilty of not noticing the Kathua rape case when it happened four months ago. I am guilty of thinking the Unnao case is any lesser because the victim is alive. I am guilty of, despite my profession, reading about several rapes every day in my city, and across the country and simply… moving on. I am guilty of not having marched in protest of anything before. So, today, I decided I would. And I’m glad I did.”

Kathua-Unnao Protest March

Convinced that we have hit rock bottom as a society and the only way out was up, Pallavi reached Azad Maidan. Seeing barely any people, any signs or banners to guide the people and especially not enough young people, for 20 minutes she moved around the ground feeling extremely disappointed and sad, “unable to see any large groups except for the one formed by party members of the Mumbai Congress. While I acknowledged the affirmative action, it was hard to shake off the fact that the party obviously would have vested interests. And this wasn’t an issue I was ready to have politicised just yet.”

Then a slogan drew her in – as good slogans ought to do. “Hum sharminda hain, tere kaatil zinda hai”, shouted the crowd. She went on to write:

It hit a nerve. I was deeply ashamed of having not done enough and earlier. That I was complicit in the system that allowed the state such free reign – so much so that the cops had the audacity to try and cover up the Kathua rape.

Another one assaulted my senses: “Arre, awaaz do! Hum ek hain!” I turned and saw a motley crowd, visibly in discomfort, in sarees and turbans and burkas in the Mumbai heat, chanting more than sloganeering. I could see people getting drawn into their collective spirit to fight back. I felt myself caring less and less about how many people were there.

Kathua-Unnao Protest March

What mattered were all those who did show up and that I was there. The people who were there – not more than 400 – were not Hindus or Muslims or Sikhs or Christians. They were righteous, indignant Indians out there to demand justice for those wronged.

I met men, women, college students, social media celebrities, lone warriors, well-coordinated organisations, old people, young people – and they all had the same thing to say: “Ab bas.”

A woman, who had come with her two daughters, one of them about the same age as the Kathua victim, looked at me incredulously when I asked her what about these incidents had moved her to come out today. And said, “these two girls”. On further prodding, she added a soft explanation. “I’m a housewife. I don’t belong to any organisation. I saw it on the news, so did my elder one. I immediately knew I have to come today if that means my daughters will grow up safe. They’re also Muslim.”

A mother of a young girl broke down as soon as she started talking to me. The heat, the constant repetitions of the young girl’s name in the slogans, the charged-up crowd – they were all adding to her heightened emotions. She cried out, “What do I say? What can I say? Just stop this casteist, communal politics”.

Kathua-Unnao Protest March

And just as disheartened, she expressed her final thoughts: Was there unnecessary politicisation of the issues at times? Yes. Was there some “Modigiri hai hai” and even some “Jo Hitler ki chaal chalega, voh Hitler ki maut marega” (yikes)? Yes. Were there men fighting for their “sisters” and “India’s daughters” but not a girl and a woman, thereby missing the point? Yes. Were there enough people to call it a “big protest” if you took away the ones who’d come with political interests? Nowhere close.

But in those who did come, I found hope and a familiar anger. I met those who had been doing this for a while and they showed me the perseverance fighting for justice takes – but also how rewarding it can be. I met those who were there for the first time just like me, and recognised the fire in their eyes to take back power from those who were corrupted by it. I saw hope and a renewed determination to fight back. Because the time to be lukewarm is gone. You’re either fighting with us, for justice, or you’re fighting against us – but you can’t sit and watch the fight anymore.

H/T Link: The Quint

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