A little candle defied the Delhi police. A handmade placard too. Lots of candles and lots of placards at India gate violated Section 144 yesterday.
Senior professors, former students, current students held them and so did the parents of DU students and my mother who had just arrived from Lucknow.
Image Courtesy: Dainik Jagran
So, first they waited for protestors to collect outside India gate, obviously across the barricade at the entry towards India gate leaving little space for them to stand without disrupting the traffic on the road. Forty five minutes later, the old DTC buses, discarded for the new bright green Tata low floor buses, were brought out from behind the barricades, scattering the protestors on the road. Then, close to 100 policemen started sieving men from the agitating protestors and pulled them towards the bus. The police told us that Section 144 was imposed last night itself. This, when several others were picnicking, boating, playing in the India gate lawns, next to the sloganeering protestors.
Protesters fight to hold on to their placards
When almost all ‘young’ men were deposited in the bus, a tall, young man kept making a few constables run behind him for the placard. The placard said, “desh ke gareeb chhatron ke bhavishya se khilwad karne wale Dinesh Singh teri khair nahin.” The constables were tired and angry after five minutes of chase in a 100 metre diameter. So, half a dozen constables got hold of him and snatched the placard. While they pulled, several of us tried to stop them from manhandling our co-protestor. While I held the tall protestor’s hand, the constables pushed me too. A moment of epiphany, I am so sure courtesy December 16 gangrape protests, a male constable yelled, ‘ladies ko durr karo!’ A group of women constables pounced. Two of them held me. One of them shouted, ‘mardon se durr hatt!’ Her invocation laced with a convoluted morality was a deterrent.
Protesters forcefully being removed by the police
Collectively me and my fellow protestor were pushed towards the bus. My top half exposing my back did not bother them. Guess, it was more than enough that the women constables were pushing me. The tall co-protestor was pushed into the bus with one mighty thrust. They turned towards me. And started pushing me into the bus. I told them for what. No answer. ‘Get into the bus,’, they said. I said, ‘I can’t, my mother is standing there.’ They didn’t listen.
Protesters forcefully being taken to the bus
My mother, 55, had arrived a day before from Lucknow my hometown. When my upper caste, North Indian, patriarchal family opposed my decision to come to Delhi University ten years back, she was the one who stood by me. When patriarchs said, ‘BA in Delhi? Why? Nobody will marry her,’ she let me go. And believed in me. Still does. Beyond the moralistic small town parameters, she accepts me and what I do, what I decide. With the same trust, she came with me to this protest. The first protest march ever in her life. When I told her about the four year undergraduate program in Delhi University early in the day, quite unexpectedly (out of my own underestimation of her) she responded, “Four years! I completed my graduation in two years in the early ‘80s. How many will send their daughters to Delhi now.”
When the women constables were pushing me, the only thought that floated in my head was ‘I don’t want to put my mother through this.’ Each time, when I take a non-conventional decision whose repercussions are boldly faced by my mother, I feel guilty. For making her standing again like a wall that is hit time and again by the regressive, moralistic society I grew up in and where she still lives.
As I pleaded them to leave my hand and let me speak to my mother, they kept shoving me in. And then I saw my mother, storm through the pack of cops on my right. There she was standing next to me and told the cops earnestly, ‘aapko pata hai teen saal se chaar saal ka graduation karenge. Aapke bacche bhi padhenge.’ A few minutes later, the bus they were pushing us into left India gate.
At Jantar Mantar Police Station
We joined the protestors holding candles. Most of the women were left behind. A bunch of thirty lit candles were suspected to set India gate ablaze. It was time to snatch them away too. Those who turned around to question the police for forcefully seizing the candles, were told to physically turn their back toward India gate and talk. The candles were not just taken away but broken. Candles are the new weapons of mass destruction in this country.
The drill started again. As the women cops hurled abuses at us, their name badges were missing. The missing name batch is the new found epitome of the state terror. They pushed us towards the third bus. They said they were taking us to Jantar Mantar. The protestors finally gave in after the one and a half hour tussle and sat in the bus. The bus stopped at Parliament Street police station. Two hours later, after the police noted down our names and addresses, we were let off at 9.30 pm.
Protesters at Jantar Mantar Police Station
When placards and candles, middle aged mothers and teachers who served their lifetimes, sloganeering and debate for the best interest of a university becomes a threat, so big that involves physical attacks by the administration and the police, it reflects the very ethos that is being introduced in our education system. To stop questioning and curl into cocoons. To follow mechanical orders and live by the rules of the powerful dictators.
The broken candle I saw in my mother’s bag this morning has wicks on both the sides now. It will burn at both ends.
Images Courtesy: Abha Dev Habib
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