Silent protests send deafening message: Not in my name
The barricaded lane leading to the protest site at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar is dotted with makeshift tents, each with colourful placards hung outside them and covered with banners protesting for a cause. From the 2011 India Against Corruption movement to the Nirbhaya gangrape incident, and more recently the Left students’ union protests on the anti-national controversy as well as a march by right-wing students group ABVP —this lane at the heart of the national capital at Jantar Mantar has become synonymous with dissent and outcry.
Thousands gathered in the same lane on 28 June braving grey skies in solidarity against mob lynchings, a rising violent form of political expression in the country. The crowd gathered mostly consisted of ordinary citizens and members of the media.
A cursory walk through the protests let you overhear Vinod Dua freewheeling in interviews that this is the first time since the emergency that he was out for a protest. It also let you glimpse at Ravish Kumar and Prannoy Roy of NDTV, Siddharth Varadarajan of The Wire, and a number of TV reporters and journalists from several news websites preparing to tweet updates, go live on Facebook, snap stories for Instagram.
The Janta wore black bands and held placards reading “Not In My Name”, “Shed Hate Not Blood”, “No Place for Islamophobia”. One placard simply read “Where Do I Even Begin?” Someone even held a copy of Roy’s Algebra of Infinite Justice in the air!
The backdrop displaying the lynching sites across India || Image courtesy: Prajwal Bhat
A makeshift dais was set up to the backdrop of a ‘Lynch map of India’ that listed the names and the locations at which people had lost their lives to mindless lynching. The protest galvanised around filmmaker Saba Dewan’s Facebook post which prompted citizens in over ten cities to take to the streets yesterday. Dewan spoke about how the recent murder of Junaid Khan, a 16-year old lynched on the Delhi-Mathura train by a mob on the eve of Eid, triggered her call for the protest.
Family members of the victims, few of whom could not make it as they were intimidated by the mob-lynching the previous night, reminded us of the danger of not resisting the mob. In between the bhajans, poetry, Sufi music rap songs and the timely reminders of keeping the protests peaceful. An overpowering sense of loss, sorrow and injustice engulfed the venue.
Youngsters, mostly college-going students, working professionals just-out-of-college had heard about the event on Twitter. They were seen taking selfies and posting updates of the event on social media. Curiously, there were a substantial number of older people too holding placards and protesting. Retired professionals shaken by the nature of the lynchings were reminded of a different era and had joined the protest.
Not everyone was in agreement about the way the protests were held but one could scarcely find a member of the crowd disagreeing with the message of the protest. For once, there was no pro-Modi or anti-Modi talk, no government leader berating the protest and very few opposition leaders unabashedly supporting it. All of this was left for television debates and keyboard warriors on social media. On the ground, there was a mutual feeling of loss, a building sense of anger and a call for action.
Silence has been broken, the mob will now be watched, more closely than ever before.
Edited by Shivani Singh