New Delhi October 5, 2017 | Mandi House, the cultural hub of Delhi, witnessed a massive eruption of people against the culture of gun unleashed by the right wing forces on journalists and rationalists. 24 organisations came together for the “March for Democracy” gathering, moving from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar in protest. Standing in the middle of the roundabout, I could see people coming in small groups from all directions raising slogans and holding banners in hands. It reminded me of the backwaters of Kerala where every now and then one reaches a big spread of water and many smaller streams joining it. This is the backlash from peace- loving citizens of India against the oppressive and criminal behavior of hate-mongers and their masters both outside and inside the governments.
At the zebra crossing on Sikandra road, a young man asked me, “Where is Mandi House”? I explained that the entire area was called Mandi House but there was one specific building which was Mandi House. I asked him where exactly he wanted to go. He replied, “We have come from Mangalore to protest against the murder of Gauri Lankesh and want to join the march to Jantar Mantar”. I was humbled by his emphatic reply and was reassured that there are young people in my country who will travel long distances, spending their hard- earned money, leaving behind businesses and jobs just to make their voices of dissent count in the crowd. I knew then, that democracy would prevail.
At Barakhamba road they gathered. Women’s organisations, student bodies, trade unions, farmer groups, NGOs, journalists, and citizens from across the country. But the one group that drew my attention the most was the group representing the LGBTQ community. The Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders, and Queers.
I spoke to one of them at Jantar Mantar. He texted me his reason for joining the march as:
“The reason behind displaying my identity in my protest, ‘Queers Against Fascism’, was to send a message to the Queer community that we need to be a part of the larger resistance movement against fascism. Because when push comes to shove, we will be the first in the line of sacrifice along with the dalits and adhivasis (regardless of your caste and privilege). Remember in Germany, the fascist party made no distinction between German queers and Jewish queers. Fascism will destroy us unless we fight and win the global fight towards upholding human rights- Shivam S, Queer Playwright at Something Simple (Queer arts initiative, Mumbai).”
I asked Harsh Mander of Aman Biradari, one of the initiators of this protest, about the developmental politics of the government at the Centre. He said, “People expected that economic growth would be strengthened, young people would get more jobs. But I was never convinced about this argument as Mr. Modi was known for his divisive politics from Gujarat itself. But now all the masks have fallen, the condition of the economy is in doldrums, growth is slowing down, small traders, farmers are all in distress. Now the only people who will support Mr. Modi are from the point of divisive politics.”
In the public meeting at Jantar Mantar, Prashant Bhushan, Convenor, Swaraj Abhiyan said that officially we may not know who killed Gauri Lankesh, but the supporters of her murder are evident. Kalburgi, Pansare, Dabolkar and Gauri were remembered. Slogans included, “Gauri ham sharminda hain_____Tumhare qatil zinda hain”. (Gauri, we are ashamed that your killers are living). Women and young people participated in good numbers. That tells the story of democracy.
Today, before writing this report, I read in the newspapers about an order by the National Green Tribunal to stop protests at Jantar Mantar. Perhaps this was my last coverage at Jantar Mantar. Democracy goes through tough times, but survives.
Nawed Akhtar is a film maker based in Gurgaon. He is also Associate Editor of The Morning Chronicle.