They swayed to the beat of tambourines and performed skits, but refused to enjoy even a minute of the night. They were, after all, putting the spotlight on the lack of safety measures for women out after dark.
Numbering over 1,500, they comprised students, teachers and families who gathered around midnight on Monday for a cultural protest, Reclaim the Night, which started from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus seeking to make streets safe for women.
In Mumbai, too, a group of 200 residents gathered at Chaityabhoomi in Dadar for a similar campaign. After about two hours of singing songs, lighting candles and speaking against sexual violence against men and women, the crowd dispersed peacefully post midnight.
“The inequalities which exist in our patriarchal society are what we are fighting against. We saw in New Year’s Eve a way to carry the movement forward,” explained Lenin Kumar, president of the JNU students’ union.
“We have to ensure that women get their due rights,” he added as chants of Mahilayen mange aazadi (women demand freedom) rent the air.
Arjun Singh, a resident of Vasant Vihar who had joined the protest with his wife and their three-year-old daughter said the idea of such brutality (the assault accompanying the rape) still sends shivers down his spine.
But the sombre mood did not stop many in Mumbai from taking a leaf from their book of resilience while ushering in the new year. Dispelling the belief that the rise in the number of attacks against women would deter people from going out to party, residents thronged popular haunts till the early hours of the morning.
Meanwhile, police sources said Ram Singh, the driver of the bus in which the December 16 gang-rape took place, was the brain behind the brutal assault and that he tried to run the vehicle over the 23-year-old and her friend afterwards. This, they added, will be included in the nearly 1,000-page charge sheet to be filed on January 3.
(With agency inputs)