On Republic Day, a group of protesters held a parade from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar, demanding gender equality, safety and justice and to ‘reclaim the republic’.
As they marched from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar, the group, largely comprising students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University, campaigned against sexual violence and gender discrimination. Slogans reverberated through the nearly empty lanes of Central Delhi. Some of their posters demanded immediate implementation of Justice Verma Committee’s recommendations while others asked if rape, repression and Lakshman rekha had any place in the Republic. “Democracy does not mean opening fire at the people. We have come here to tell the state that the people are the life of a democracy,” Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association, said.
The march culminated in a medal distribution ceremony. Named Lakshman rekha and Mardangi-Maryada medals, awards were given to politicians and spiritual gurus who made headlines for their controversial statements following last month’s gangrape incident. The list included Abhijeet Mukherjee for his ‘dented-painted’ remark; RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat who said rapes happened in India and not Bharat; Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee president Botsa Satyanarayana, and Asaram Bapu.
At Jantar Mantar, several groups continued to hold demonstrations to put an end to violence against women. While one group has observed a relay hunger strike since early January, another has taken to paintings and collages to highlight the number of cases of violence against women across the country. Surrounded by potted plants, a memorial for the 23-year-old gangrape victim also lies on the Jantar Mantar premises.
“We need to keep the movement for justice alive,” said Ashok Gonal, who was sitting on a hunger strike on Saturday. The number of protesters has dwindled.
Several persons like Jharna Bhatnagar, however, made it a point to come to Jantar Mantar on Republic Day. “The number of people coming here has reduced but there has been an upsurge again today. Even if people cannot come here, their resolve to bring about a change should not fizzle out,” Bhatnagar said.