Thursday, May 23, 2013

9.15 p.m.

As I read the papers on Monday morning, there was a small section on the front page, which reported a Gang Rape that took place in South Delhi. In fact the girl in question had taken the bus at 9.15pm from one of the busiest bus stops in town, right opposite the police station. The reporter of course described the entirety of the crime in a manner more appropriate for a sexual thriller than a brutal, barbaric and shameful act that took place before our very own eyes.
I was angry but also felt helpless. I had no idea what I could do. I work for an NGO and we help rape victims on a daily basis. But over the course of last three years of working in Delhi with rape victims, somehow justice (the way it is supposed to be at least) seems like a far-fetched dream, at most what we succeed in achieving is providing these victims with basic health care and getting their cases registered. The sad reality is that conviction rates are too low to even cite. Being overly familiar with these realities my drive to work was one of a rather aggravated, lost and helpless man (you know that feeling when the world feels far too twisted to remedy, and all you want to do is scream and cry).
Well I guess nature has a way of balancing things out. Once in the office I received a call from one of my friends, a Jawaharlal Nehru University student, and an active member of the Student Union. I heard the anger in his voice, his first words were “Enough is enough is enough is enough!” and it most certainly was. We refused to remain passive viewers and became determined to ensure that the Police had no choice but to do its job and that the city took accountability for what had happened at 9.15pm that night.
What followed was a chain reaction, as the JNU Student Union gathered their students, we all got on our phones and our computers to fanatically inform our friends, partners and family about our plans and before we knew it in a day we had managed to bring together all of our networks to the spot where the victim boarded that fateful bus at 9.15pm. The “Outer Ring Road” of Delhi was blocked at Munirka, and of course at this moment the cynics will complain that this formed a significant disturbance, but we did not care. Our demands were clear and concise. The Home Minister, the Chief Minister and the Police need to ensure the well-being of the victim as well as guarantee that the maximum punishment for the rapist, through a fast-track court process, is undertaken. This demand was not just for the victim but for all our sisters, mothers, partners and each and every woman that has touched our lives in even the smallest of ways.
Of course, the authorities ignored us for a while, but we were not going to move until they took responsibility for what happened on their watch at 9.15pm. It was like a chain reaction with the media playing its part in highlighting the call for action at both the national and international level. Within hours we could see action being initiated: The Home Minister ordered rapid action to be taken by the police, the Delhi High Court stepped in and ordered the Police Commissioner to present a report within two days. The Chief Minister’s office vowed that all costs towards the victim’s medical treatment would be directly assumed by them.
Protest against rising cases of rape in New Delhi (Pic:
On the morning of 19 December, we witnessed a sudden growth in our numbers with leaders of various sectors meeting with Delhi’s police commissioner at ITO and then we, the common people, used all of our resources, be they through sms, bbm messages, e-mails or phone calls to reach out to everyone and anyone in Delhi to assemble at India Gate. The event created by us reached over 50,000 people. ( )
Once 5pm came what unfolded before us was nothing short of spectacular. We witnessed everyone assembled at India Gate with every single individual (except the bystanders who stood at a distance) present for their own reasons. Because they cared and sought to show solidarity towards the victim. Because they wanted to speak and demand that justice be done. Because they were tired of waiting for officials to take charge. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few professional slogan shouters, a few tag alongs, cynics complaining and media crews trying to stage some graphic comments BUT by and large the majority of those present were people who cared. Because they wanted to ensure that the safety of women is made a priority, not just for the Government, not just for the police but for the citizens, for you and me. Because we’ve all been on a bus at 9.15pm.
On a personal note, at that moment when I saw the crowd shouting slogans, distributing pamphlets, demanding justice, I think for the first time in three days that helpless feeling started to disappear. But our job is not done yet, the victim is still fighting for her life, two of the rapists are still absconding and four others are being held and have not been convicted.
We have a long way to go, but we need to keep at it, thinking of solutions to this epidemic. I am currently on my way to a candlelight vigil at Safdarjung Hospital to pray for the health of the victim who is still in the ICU. Please join if you WANT to change the way things are. In fact only YOU can change the way things are. As for the cynics: Stop complaining and start solving. One step at a time and we will eventually get there. I promise you.

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