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'Let's turn Jantar Mantar into Tahrir Square!'

Tuesday January 01, 2013 08:00:24 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: It has been four days since the gang-rape victim passed away. But the anger refuses to melt away in the very heart of the Indian capital.

Within stone's throw distance of the Jantar Mantar observatory, almost an entire street has been taken over by a mass of seemingly faceless people furious over the status of Indian women.

There is no central leadership to these protesters. They come from all parts of Delhi - even nearby states. They give militant speeches. They squat on the road. They light candles. They talk. They debate. They hear.

They are mainly young men and women, dominantly from the Jawaharlal Nehru University and colleges of the larger Delhi University. There are also other youths. There are activists too.

Then there are the middle-aged, both men and women. Many have pathetic stories to relate, stories of women who got raped or molested or browbeaten, victims who have aged while fighting for justice.

There is anger and frustration in everyone's voice. But one thing is clear: a simple lower middle class girl who got brutally gang-raped and tortured and died in Singapore has triggered a volcanic eruption.

Even after her death, she remains the cause keeping everyone united.

The biggest of the groups occupies virtually the middle of the road. These protesters have been holding on to Jantar Mantar ever since police permitted protests here after the Dec 16 gang-rape shamed India.

There is a smaller group a little distance away, equally as passionate about the issues on hand. There are half-a-dozen smaller groups.

Everyone is seated around or holding hand-written posters that betray the pain in their hearts.

"My Body, My Right", says one. "Delhi is Rape Capital," says another. Another screams: "I live in a country where a girl is not safe inside the womb or outside."

Another poster seeks "chemical castration" for rapists. There are innumerable posters demanding death sentence for rapists. Posters mock at politicians and the Indian system per se.

At two places on the road, a large number of candles are burning - in memory of the gang-rape victim. Every minute someone lights a new candle even as those lit long ago dim and die.

Anyone and everybody can make speeches here - as long as they don't stray from the issue: justice for the Indian woman.

Many speakers are men, but they are as passionate as the females.

One man, from Bihar, points to a woman who he says has been raped by a police officer in Delhi. "If this crime can happen in the national capital, you can only guess what must be happening in remote parts of India."

Another man says that while President Barrack Obama went public immediately after a man massacred 20 children in a US school, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took days to react to the Delhi gang-rape.

The crowd boos the prime minister. There are passionate slogans of "Bharat Mata ki Jai!" and "Ek, do, teen, char, band karo yeh atyachaar!"

The man goes on: "Damini has died. But she has awakened the entire country. We will not rest till we turn Jantar Mantar into a Tahrir Square. In Egypt, Mubarak fled. Our rulers too will flee one day!"

There is frantic clapping; and cries of "Inquilab Zindabad!"

Slogans target Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. There is an occasional slogan against Delhi's Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. But not one person has any good thing to say about any politician.

The nearby boundary of the Janata Dal-United office has become a Democracy Wall: there are neatly pasted hand-written posters denouncing everything that is wrong with India, corruption included.

As the speeches and slogans go on, vendors make profits. Nearby shops furiously sell breakfast and lunch and endless cups of tea. Peanuts are in demand. Guavas are on sale. So are candles.

Delhi Police has taken a backseat. Most security personnel are from the Rapid Action Force in blue. They are relaxed. Some watch the goings on with no visible emotion. Most stand far away.

There is no indication when this will end, no sign when the street will see traffic again. One thing is clear: what would have been just another rape in India has become a catalyst for a long buried cause.



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