The Movement Continues
Against Gender Violence, For Women’s Equality and Rights
[Brief report and photographs from countrywide movement against sexual violence following the Delhi gang rape.]
Condolence Meetings and New Years’ Eve Protests
On 29 December, following the death of the Delhi gang rape victim, thousands shared the pain and grief of the passing of that brave fighter... And strengthened their resolve to resist sexual violence and defend women’s freedom and equality.
At Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, a very large number of people gathered in silence in the morning. After several hours, as the gathering grew in size, Asmita theatre group, RYA and AISA activists began singing songs of freedom. Chants for women’s freedom and against moral policing and violence also began as the day progressed, enthusiastically taken up by young women and men too.
In the evening, a huge, silent procession marched with candles on to the Parliament Street and back. At the forefront of the throng were a huge number of young women. Tears could be seen in many of their eyes. The sea of candles and the solemn, saddened faces was a moving sight - and a silent rebuke to those in power who see these protesters as a security threat needing policing by RAF and armed gunmen...
At noon on the same day, the JNU students and teachers led by the JNUSU held a massive silent procession from JNU past Ber Sarai to the same Munirka bus stop where the brave girl and her friend had boarded the fateful bus. On the way they were joined by large numbers of common people, especially women, and at the bus stop they held a short public meeting.
The Delhi Unit of Jan Sanskriti Manch organised a meeting on 28 December ‘Against the Culture of Rapes: Oppression of Women and the Role of the State and the Society’ in Delhi at Indian Women’s Press Corps.
On 29 December, hundreds of women and men assembled near Tammukkam Grounds in Madurai, Tamilnadu, and took a pledge to continue the struggle of women against patriarchy and paid condolence to the Delhi gang Rape victim and rape victims of Tamilnadu. They warned leaders of political parties and religious institutions who are bent upon imposing ‘rules’ on Tamil women. Later, they marched towards Madurai Collectorate with their Charter of demands.
In Guwahati, AIPWA held a protest procession on 29 December, jointly with 16 other women’s and cultural organizations. The procession concluded in a mass meeting where AIPWA leader Junu Borah, Sumitra Hazarika (NBAM), Arati Dewan (AIDWA), Menaka Devi (Bank employee), Loknath Goswami (JSP), Dr. Dilip Borah (Prof. Gauhati University) and others addressed the gathering.
A convention which was planned in Pithoragarh on the issue of women freedom and sexual violence in wake of Delhi gang-rape was cancelled as news poured in early morning of December 29, 2012 of the death of the gang-rape victim, and instead a rally was organized against Union government. The protest rally saw participation of hundreds of people with increased participation from girl students, who raised slogans demanding women’s freedom from fear, and sure and swift punishment in rape cases. In Pantnagar, on evenings of December 29 and 30, a poster exhibition and rally on the same issue was organized in University under the leadership of AISA Comrade Rubi Bhardhwaj.
A condolence meeting was held by AISA activists in Davangere, Karnataka, on 29 December. Condolence meetings and protests were held on this day in several other places across the country.
On the evening of 30th December, a Walk for Freedom march was held throughout Delhi University, which was joined by more than a 1000 students chanting ‘Hum kya chahte - azaadi’ (What do we want? Freedom).
On 31st December, AISA and RYA along with Asmita theatre group, held a ‘Reclaim Connaught Place’ march, joined by hundreds of people. The police disallowed the march, so protesters marched to Jantar Mantar, chanting slogans and singing songs. At Jantar Mantar, a huge gathering adopted a pledge for the year 2013, to dedicate the new year to struggle for women’s equality, rights and freedom from violence.
On the night of the 31st, more than thousand people responded to a call given by the JNUSU and JNUTA, and marched in a ‘Reclaim the Night’ procession from JNU past the Munirka bus stop to a public park where a cultural gathering was held.
Protests in December
The condolence meetings and new year’s eve protests were preceded by many others.
On 23 December, massive protests were organized and Dhikkar Diwas observed under the banner of AIPWA and RYA to protest the Delhi gangrape, demand effective laws and protest against the brutalities of the Sheila Dixit government on the protesters in Delhi. The protest meetings and marches were held in various parts of UP including Deoriya, Benaras, Gazipur, Chandauli,Mirzapur, Sonbhadra, Lucknow, Pilibhit, Lakhimpur Khiri, Jalaun, Gorakhpur, Kanpur, Allahabad, Sitapur, Faizabad. AISA, AIPWA and RYA jointly observed 19 December as Protest Day and burnt the effigy of the UPA government in front of the Assembly in Lucknow.
Odisha State units of AIPWA and AISA protested against Delhi gang rape on 26th December, 2012 in front of the State Assembly in Bhubaneshwar. People from nearby districts of Puri, Khurda, Kendrapada and Bhubaneswar came to attend the rally.
AISA and AIPWA organized a convention against violence on women on 24th December, 2012 in Murshidabad, West Bengal. The program was conducted by Aritra Goswami of AISA. A painting exhibition by Anupam Roy on gender violence was also held on the occasion. Observing the Dhikkar Diwas, called by the CPI(ML) West Bengal state committee, hundreds of women and students-youths with posters, banners and red flags marched in the town. On the same day, an AISA protest march condemning the Delhi gang rape started from Subodh Mallick Square in Kolkata and culminated in a street corner meeting at Esplanade.
AISA members went around HD Kote town, enforced strike in many colleges on 24 December 2012 against the gruesome Delhi gangrape and the subsequent crackdown on peaceful protestors by the police in Delhi. Hundreds of students marched on the streets and staged Rasta Roko in front of the HD Kote taluk office of Mysore district. Students marched to the DC office at Davanagere and submitted a memorandum against the police repression on peaceful protestors in Delhi. Some of the Ministers present in the DC office came personally to receive the memorandum and engaged in debate with agitators.
In Uttarakhand, protests were held in many towns of the state. On 19 December, AISA held a protest demonstration in Rudrapur against the Delhi gangrape. Activists shouted slogans in front of Uttarakhand minister Indira Hridayesh who was delivering speech in the annual function of Govt. PG College along with the local BJP MLA. Both of them did not even mention the heinous rape crime which has shaken the conscience of the country. When women activists of AISA went over the dais to ask why the minister prefer not to speak on the gandrape, they were met with police force. One women constable went even to the extent of telling AISA leader Dipika Bharti, ‘why are you protesting when you yourself have not been raped.’ This led to more protest by students and scuffle with the police. Later, the college administration issued ‘no entry’ notice to AISA leaders Lalit Matiyali and Dipika Bharti. This incident led to another protest against college administration on 21 December. AISA activists held a protest and mass meeting on 22 December too in the main market of the town where an effigy was also burnt. AISA in Rudrapur again called for a citywide protest on 24 December on this issue.
In Pithoragarh, AISA leader and Students’ Union President Hemant Khati led a protest demonstration against the Delhi gangrape on 20 December and burnt an effigy of UPA Government. Another protest was held on 25 December which was attended by hundreds of students and other people.
AIPWA organised a dharna in Haldwani on 25 December and also raised cases of gender oppression, rape-murder in Uttarakhand involving complicity of politicians. It was demanded to institute CBI inquiry into the rape cases occurred in Haldwani in past years.
AIPWA and AISA took out a joint rally in Ranchi on December 21 to demand justice for the Delhi gangrape victim in which citizens and students, including noted psychologist Renu Diwan, joined spontaneously. On December 22 AIPWA, AISA and JASAM activists, supported by senior economist Ramesh Sharan and Prof. Mithilesh, took to the streets again to protest the brutal handling of the Delhi protesters by the Sheila Dixit government. The protests, led by Sunita, Guni Oraon, Sarojini Bisht, Singi Xalxo, Soni Tiriya of AIPWA and Shweta, Sushila, Khushbu, Priya of AISA, were not only against the Central and Delhi governments but also against the several heinous crimes of gangrape, child rape, stalking, molestation and “honour” killing which have taken place in recent times in Jharkhand.
On 19 December at Patna AISA and RYA held a protest march against the Delhi gang rape. On 22nd December, AISA, AIPWA, RYA and JASAM campaigned for a citizens’ protest in Patna. Thousands of citizens, teachers, students and cultural workers protested at the Gandhi Maidan from where they marched and blockaded the Dakbangla crossing for 2 hours and held a mass meeting there. Students spontaneously marched in processions from colleges to join the protest. A range of intellectuals of Patna joined the protest.
Taking the movement onward, further protests were organized by AIPWA on December 24, 26 and 27 December. Protest marches were held in 13 districts. On 2 January, in protest against a rape of a minor girl in Daniyanva, as well as the Delhi gang rape and denial of justice for Rupam Pathak, the Patna rural AIPWA committee marched from the Station circle to DM office, and broke the locks of the DM’s office to enter it and protest.
Protests in the New Year
On January 1, 2013, AIPWA, AISA and RYA activists held a protest demonstration in Gangavati against the Delhi rape and the increasing rape incidents in Karnataka. CPI(ML)’s Comrade Bharadwaj condemned the sheer apathy and unwillingness of the Koppal district administration in registering the case in Hatty rape, where a 16 year old girl was gangraped by four men and the panchayat just imposed a fine of Rs 30,000 each on the accused, and the victim committed suicide. Despite several protests by AIPWA, AISA, RYA demanding COD enquiry into the case, the police and the administration in connivance with the perpetrators of the crime buried the issue.
On January 2, AISA, RYA and AIPWA along with several other groups joined a protest called by Himanshu Kumar from Chhattisgarh, demanding justice for Soni Sori. Since Soni’s case was due to come up for hearing in the Supreme Court on the 3rd, protesters marched from Jantar Mantar to the Supreme Court, evading attempts by the police to stop them.
On January 4, a procession and a public hearing of women students was held at Delhi University’s Arts Faculty.
On January 6, AIPWA and AICCTU jointly organized a candle light vigil at Bangalore against the Delhi gangrape and the increasing incidence of rape in Karnataka. Many workers participated in the protest with their family. Interestingly, union notice boards in many companies in Bangalore declared a fight against male chauvinism, for women’s equality. The vigil was addressed by CPI(ML) CCM Shankar. AIPWA activist Ranjani condemned the moral policing brigades of the Sangh Parivar protected by the BJP Government; and pointed out that Karnataka’s Sec 354 of CrPC degrades rape victims by allowing a maximum punishment of two years of imprisonment for rapists and demanded a uniform, stringent law against rape with rigorous punishment. Gandhimathi, State Convenor of AIPWA, said that increasing incidents of rape in the city is leading to further restrictions on girl students, including in institutions like National Law School, and that such measures, in the name of safety, go against the very spirit of women’s freedom. Sumita Mukherji, Appanna, AICCTU State Secretary, Putte Gowda, AICCTU District Secretary, Somu, AICCTU District President, Narayan Swamy, AICCTU District VP, Vijayalakshmi, CGHSEU leader, Bharathi and others spoke. Syed Sajjad Ahmed brought a poster-covered car against violence on women to the protest.
On January 6, a consultative meeting was held at the Indian Law Institute, Delhi, where the campaign ‘Freedom Without Fear’ was given further shape. Many individuals who had been participating in the protest regularly attended the meeting and resolved to keep the movement alive and vibrant.
CPI-ML, AIPWA and AICCTU staged a protest at the Durg Collectorate on January 8, against the heinous and systematic rape committed on minor Adivasi girls for the past two years in the Government Adivasi Girls Hostel at Jhaliyamali village, Narharpur Block, Kanker District. After the protest demonstration, a memorandum was submitted to the Governor of Chhattisgarh through the Additional Collector, Durg.
The memorandum demanded strict and just punishment for the guilty, proper medical treatment and compensation for the victim girls whose age range from 5 to 13 years, as well as the immediate release of Soni Sori who was gang raped in Chhattisgarh police’s custody, and withdrawal of the rape-accused SP Ankit Garg’s gallantry award. The Chhattisgarh BJP leaders’ rape culture remarks were strongly protested.
On January 9, a protest was held by AIPWA and AISA in Odisha’s Rayagada district aganst the gang-rape of a 13-year-old girl, who attempted suicide in terror after her 3 rapists threatened to kill her, and was badly burnt in the suicide attempt. The demonstration demanded that the Government bear all expenses for the treatment of the survivor of rape and burns, and take her to Delhi for treatment.
Around 300 people participated in the protest led by AIPWA State Committee member Padmini Gomango. CPI(ML) district secretary Tirupati Gomango, AISA leader Pralay Behera, AIALA leader Sharad Tripathi and several others leading activists also participated in the protest. The demonstrators marched up till the district Headquarters and submitted a memo to the Governor via the DM.
On January 9, AISA, RYA and AIPWA joined the Freedom Without Fear protest at Jantar Mantar against the shameful rape culture remarks of Asaram Bapu, Mohan Bhagwat and others, burning the effigy of these so-called godmen and political leaders. The AISA-AIPWA protest at Varanasi against Asaram and Bhagwat was attacked by ABVP goons. A protest demonstration was held against the ABVP attack.
On 10 January, AIPWA held a national protest against sexual violence and the anti-women statements by a range of leaders. AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari, and Bihar State President Saroj Choubey led the protests in Patna, protesting against violence as well as curbs on women’s freedom, and demanding immediate release of Rupam Pathak. A rally and meeting was organized in Darbhanga, and protests were held in Siwan and in Muzaffarpur.
As part of the same national protest, a March was organized in Ranchi on 10 January, demanding justice for all women victims of violence and State oppression, including Soni Sori, Roopam Pathak, Chanchal, Sonam and Sonali Mukherjee. AIPWA, AISA, RYA held massive freedom marches was organized in UP, under the banner “Justice and Freedom March”, at 5 centres —Lucknow, Allahabad, Benaras, Gorakhpur and Ghazipur, and was spontaneously joined by citizens, women, youth and students.
In Puducherry, CPI(ML) protested against the rape of a minor girl, as well as the Delhi gang rape, jointly along with other parties. A poster campaign was conducted in rural areas of Puducherry on 19 January, and the campaign in urban areas took place on 21 January. The party had protested against the Puducherry government’s objectionable order to put schoolgirls in overcoats – and the Government eventually withdrew this order.
Vigil Marking One Month
On 16 January, at Delhi University Arts Faculty lawns, several hundred students and teachers from Delhi University and other colleges and universities of city as well as many participants of the struggle against violence on women gathered to mark one month of the brutal gang rape.
The gathering was addressed by Shuddhabrata Sengupta of Kafila; novelist Maitreyi Pushpa; Mary John (director CWDS); Vrinda Grover (supreme court laywer and civil rights activist); Kavita Krishnan (secretary, AIPWA), Prof. Apoorvanand (DU Hindi dept.); Prof. Archana Mishra (DU), and Sucheta De (former JNUSU president). Poetry and songs also marked the occasion.
Processions and meetings marking one month of the Delhi gang-rape protests were held in Uttarakhand at Pithoragarh, Rudrapur, Haldwani and Dehradun.