A month after the horrific gang rape incident that brought middle class India onto the streets, a 32-year-old rape victim from Punjab joined the protest venue at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. Perhaps it was a sign of how things are changing when she addressed a crowd fearlessly, tears streaming down her face. There was no stigma attached, she was after all not at fault. Alleging that then SSP of Sangrur Naunihal Singh had raped her three years ago on June 16, 2010, she said she has been seeking justice all these years. Though documented by media over the years, and even after filing complainants with the NHRC and the prime minister in 2011, she is still waiting for justice. No action has been taken against the accused.
Though the accused in the gang rape victim’s case are on trial in the fast track court set up because of public pressure, protesters at the venue were clear that something else is also needed.
Pushpa, 26, has been a regular since the first time she came to India Gate. “ When we come here, media takes our byte, people get compelled to articulate their anger and so pressure is kept on. If we become silent, then the government will not do anything,” she says. “ I do not want capital punishment. The mentality has to change. Make Delhi a safer place,” she said. She and her friends often go and speak to people at Delhi metro stations about the incident.
Further ahead, Anand Dev, former chairperson of Lalit Kala Academy was sitting with some paintings that had been put up with collaboration with the Srijan Artist group. Like many others, he too had been a part of the protest since it started. He said though this is not the first time people have taken to the streets, it is definitely the longest and most sustained . “There is a pain. It is not just for show or on display though off course there are people like that too here”.
Earlier in the day, the “Freedom without Fear” campaign at the Delhi University organised a protest meeting addressed by activists like Kavita Krishnan, Apoorvanand, Vrinda Grover among others. Attended by about 400 students, Sunny, an AISA student party member said “There was a lot of energy. It was interactive and many students were involved in it”. There was also a march by medical students fraternity from the Safdarjung Hospital.
As the day ended, Kiran Bedi joined the protesters. “We must keep our andolan active to ensure that once the Justice Verma recommendations come out they are implemented”. She also spoke about reforms that are needed in the 6 Ps — parents, principle, police, politicians, prosecution and the press. “This is a historic moment to get your demands heard,” she said. She also said strict laws should be in place to ensure that no police station refuses to file first information reports.
“If reports are not filed, then the offending policeman should be suspended or even be made to loose their job,” Bedi said. She said the need for social audit of courts and police stations by groups comprising academics and lawyers among others. “There institutions are at a distance from common people, we have to open these up to us”.