To start off the New Year, Ground Report is continuing its Recognition Awards, highlighting the very best articles from December 2012. The results are in, and we have five articles that represent the highest quality journalism. Each winner receives a cash prize, and we will be recognizing the articles by posting them on the front page of Ground Report.
The second Recognition Awards goes to Syed Ali Mujtaba Syed for the article "Delhi Rape Protest Can Not Be Ignored" from December 26.
Syed investigates the spontaneous protest in Delhi that erupted after the brutal rape of a woman riding the bus in December. He reports on that protest and draws apt comparisons to earlier protests in Delhi and beyond.
The origianl article can be found here: http://www.groundreport.com/Opinion/Delhi-Rape-Protest-Can-not-be-Ignored/2950260
Delhi Rape Protests Can Not Be Ignored by Syed Ali Mujtaba Syed
The gang rape in New Delhi in a moving bus on Dec 17, 2012 has stirred the consciousness of the entire nation. More incensed are the people living in the national capital who are its victim every now and then. What separates this event with other is the powerful youth protest against such horrendous crime that continues to grow without any solutions in sight. The protestors gave a strong message that they can no more tolerate such ghastly assaults on the dignity of women in near future.
It was unfortunate that some hooligans joined the peaceful protestors and indulged in the acts of vandalism that caused grave injuries to a police .constable who later succumbed to his wounds. Notwithstanding the facts, the essence of the protest cannot be ignored.
In recent memory, the presence of young brigade on the Rajpath demonstrating for a rightful cause is unprecedented. It was a sheer call of consciousness that mobilized such a large number of young people driven by a common cause. The brave hearts defied the chilling winter of the capital and were peaceful in giving vent to their pent up anger.
The youth demanded to live a peaceful life, better security, and prevention of crime, swift action and punishment, better law to handle such cases. They were deeply hurt because all such basic requirements were missing from the national capital. If that be the case, imagine the condition in rest of the country.
The angry youth while coming out for protest walked alone nursing the gruesome of the images of lowering the dignity of women in a moving bus. Each one carried their anger within but never realized were not alone. They were astonished to find that there were many who thought in the similar way. It was a rare sight to see such synchronization of aspirations convergence of people to articulate their demands.
If we ignore the few miscreants who set fire some logs and vandalized some vehicles, and hurt a policeman, the demonstration was by and large purposeful. Most of the young folks were peaceful and liked to be counted for standing up for a cause.
Their din and clatter went beyond the Raisina Hills and Malacha, the two forgotten villages of Delhi that were razed to construct the viceroy’s palace. The chivalry shown by the youth on the most high profile street in the country made the place look very ordinary where India’s might is on full display every 26 January.
These youth were not the one who believed in Facebook based protests or signing the online petition as a means of protest. They were convinced lot and had decided to raise the banner of revolt through street protest. Their message was clear that this time they will not remain a silent spectator to such growing crime in the city. Being beaten up or strewn with tear gas and water canons did not deterred their resolve. They were willing to suffer any amount of pain and sufferings and refused to be cowed down by any odd.
Their heroic efforts has reclaimed the dignity of the street protest’ that’s fast being over taken by the social media these days. At a time when it is felt that social media has become one of the most favored way of youth protest, the recent street protest Delhi have preempted such assumption. In fact this was the first spontaneous protest in New Delhi after the Mandal agitation of 1990.
It would be wrong to call the jeans clad protesters as an ‘urban centric,’ crowd and it would be naive to dismiss them as elitist protesters as well. These middle class youth wearing T-Shirts and jeans and holding banners wanted to be counted as someone who can muster courage to defy any odds can not be dismissed lightly. These brave hearts stood for demanding greater respect and dignity for women and deserves to be applauded.
It was great sight to see some young girls demanding their right to be protected in this country. They were not merely a protest against the physical abuse but for all form of abuses; be it mental or social or about their priorities and aspirations in life. These fearless faces epitomized a whole brave new India those who no more like to tolerate such humiliation of women in the public places.
In this season of protest equally praiseworthy are the police forces of Delhi that handled the protestors with exemplary restrain and courage. Imagine the scene of the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989 and compare with those of the Rajpath on December 21-22, 2012.
It was a rare sight to watch, the police force standing up in their defence while youth force were in full mood of aggression. In fact the police was allowing the youth to have their way while taking the beating from all corners. In the process they lost one of their brave constables. Such restrain demonstrated by the security forces is never found in the annals of street protest in New Delhi. The Delhi police deserve some praise for doing so.
It’s not for the first time the incident of rape has rocked Delhi. If memory serves right, in 1978 two children, Geeta and Sanjay Chopra, were kidnapped by two criminals Ranga and Billa, for ransom. The children were kidnapped while hitching a ride from outside Gol Dak Khana near Connaught Place. The kidnappers plan went haywire when their car met with an accident with a DTC bus. The duo escaped from the city after murdering the children. Later, medical examination confirmed that Geeta Chopra was raped before murder. Delhi, at that time was seething with anger and every one wanted the culprits to be caught and punished. Subsequently, the kidnappers were arrested, tried and hanged for their crime in 1982.
Since then Delhi continues to lives up to its reputation for being the rape city of the country. The incidents of rape in the national capital are happening at regular intervals. Delhi tops the chart in the rape cases every year. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics of 2011 Delhi reported much higher rape cases then other five metros of India. Delhi had 572 rape cases, Mumbai (221), Kolkata (46), Chennai (76), Bangalore (97) and Hyderabad (59).
In contrast to all the previous rape cases, the latest rape case in Delhi is an eye opener. This can be singled out for huge mobilization of the youth in the capital. The protesters represented the public outraging against such heinous crime in the city. Their protest should not go in wane and their demands may usher in change in handling such cases in the country.
With the constitution of fast-track court to try such cases and the promise of speedy conviction and deterrent punishment to the culprits there are some ray of hope to firmly tackle the occurrence of such crime in the city. It could well be a turning point in bringing new law to handle rape cases in the country.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He grew up in New Delhi and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org