Spread A Message

The Delhi gang rape incident is still fresh in the minds of many. An intolerable mix of anger and helplessness is how I remember the incident.

A few days after that angel from the Delhi gang rape succumbed to her injuries, a friend informed me about a peace protest that was taking place here in Bombay. I was caught up with some work and was unable to make it. Regretting not being able to participate, I then thought I’d try something else to protest, to convey the message that a lot of Delhiites were trying to convey in the mind-numbing winter cold, and for days on end. Here’s what I came up with. These are posters that I made that night, and that were on my car for almost a month since, before my family asked me to take them off because they didn’t like the attention the car got when they were traveling with me.

Make India safe for women

Teach your sons to behave
Respect women

Sure it was initially very, very awkward, with people staring at my car. But the cause and the purpose of it overshadowed the uncomfortable feeling quickly. And while I was doing what anyone at the peace-protest was, this way I could  protest for longer, and I got to cover more geographical area while driving around town.

Now, this brings me to another thought. Most of the heinous crimes are usually committed by illiterate men, but instances of household violence, eve-teasing and harassment at work, etc. tend to come from the literate, well-read and even the rich and famous. And if just posters could reform anyone, the world would have already been a lot better than it is. So, what I hoped to achieve by keeping the posters on long enough, was to have connected with like-minded people whom I could work with to find a workable solution to make India safe for women.

Now, with the posters gone, I’m essentially back at the drawing board with regard to figuring out a solution, but here are a few of the encouraging responses I got while the posters were still on:

  • I was at a company’s office on invitation, to address their team on strategy. While driving out of their office building, the security guard there asked me what the posters conveyed; he then appreciated the messages and said I was doing a good thing
  • An employee at a very popular cafe, who was helping me park outside the cafe into a tight parking spot, was thrilled on reading the messages. He shook my hand vigorously while praising the messages with a ‘you’re doing the right thing’ look. I gulped at the unexpected but encouraging reaction, as I thanked him
  • A girl sitting in an adjoining taxi while I was waiting at a signal light looked pleased. She instantly sat up in her seat, almost magically pulled out a camera and took a snap
  • This one took the cake. I was stuck in peak traffic at a place where 7 roads merged at a circle  (with no signals functioning). I noticed a car zip from behind me to my right, dodge a car or two and manage to line up on my side. The driver pulled down the window, honked to draw my attention, pointed to the posters and gave me an encouraging ‘thumbs up’, before vanishing into the sea of traffic

People still care. We all care a lot about such a cause. Everyone cares about their wives, sisters, daughters and mothers. All we need, is to take some time, work together, to find a solution, and to implement it. We have to do it. No one else will.

If you feel you have workable ideas or suggestions to make our country (and other countries) safer, I’d love to hear from you. It’ll be even better if we could discuss (over coffee, via email or any which way that works for you) and see if we can come up with a workable & easily replicable solution. You can reach me at shrutinshetty@gmail.com, or on Twitter @shrutinshetty.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful and touching sand art by Hari Krishna in memory of the Angel who was the victim of the Delhi gang rape.

I WITNESS – The good people of DELHI

I usually do not reproduce or re-post any existing content on my blog. But here is one exception. Here’s a post written by Sangeeta Das, one of thousands of brave citizens who were part of the peaceful movement in Delhi, protesting against  a brutal gang-rape (on Dec. 16) and the unsafe India that politicians have created for women. It simply shows the depths that some soulless politicians and some brainless police can fall to.

Sangeeta Das’s post: I WITNESS – The good people of Delhi

I WITNESS – The good people of DELHI

by Sangeeta Das on Sunday, December 23, 2012 at 11:43pm ·

I am appalled at the lop-sided relay of events and incomplete images being telecast by some of the NEWS channels on TV, regarding the incident that happened at India Gate yesterday at around 5:30 PM.

I was there. We were all on the other side of India Gate towards the Dhyan Chand Stadium.

I think I need to paint the correct picture for the nation. Except for CNN IBN and NEWS X, most other channels are not showing the peaceful gathering. Thus it gives out the wrong message to the nation, to the politicians, to other women that there was violence.

Please pass on this note to as many people as you can and post it at as many places.

THERE WAS NO VIOLENCE NO PROVOCATION…THE POLICE ATTACKED WITHOUT ANY WARNING. I have been through section 144 earlier. At least there should have been one warning issued to us to get up and leave, peacefully, before they started hitting us.

Ms.Naina Kapur, of VISHKHA GUIDELINES fame, was there with me. Ms.Smita Bharti of SAAKSHI, an NGO working on SEXUAL HARASSMENT on women, was there. Ms.Nafisa Ali was standing behind us, Mr.Arvind Kejriwal was sitting just two rows in front of me, Mr.Arvind Gaur of ASMITA THEATER GROUP was there asking all the people to sit down and listen to the talks.

There were about 200-250 girls and equal or more number of men of all ages. There were young girls, some children, families and some elderly people along with hoards of photographers, journalists and reporters.

WE WERE ALL SITTING ON THE ROAD PEACEFULLY and listening to the painful account, of the mother of ‘KIRAN NEGI’, a 3 yr old who has been brutally raped and disfigured and killed, by her attackers. Even the sloganeering had stopped.

Many young and old men of Delhi were standing around us in a 3-4 layer human chain to protect us from any hooligans or nasty elements. It was like a CHAKRAVYUH.

Members of the ASMITA THEATER GROUP, including Mr.Gaur, were constantly walking around the circle. Young boys and girls of his team were repeatedly requesting and talking to people to not resort to violence, not to panic or run or throw stones, not to damage public property, AND not to hurt or abuse the female protestors.

There were many volunteers distributing biscuits and water to every protestor.

We were talking to the ‘AAM JANATA’ of Delhi on how to tackle the violence on women and children starting from ourselves, our homes and communities.

WE WERE SIMPLY TALKING.

I had just finished my packet of biscuit when the police, hundreds of them from DELHI POLICE and RAF, charged at us from behind, WITHOUT ANY WARNING.

They first attacked the men from behind, breaking their CHAKRAVYUH. I stood up to see what the commotion was about, and immediately fell as most girls didn’t get enough time to stand up. I hugged Smitaji as we fell on each other and there was a stampede over us.

Some of the men from the circle ran for their lives, but most of them ran towards us and hugged us and fell on us and took the initial blows of the LATHI CHARGE.

I couldn’t see anything; I just heard the two cracks of a SPLIT BAMBOO STICK on my back, butt and thighs. Then I heard the police screaming, HARAMZADIYON, RANDIYON, and then I saw a boot kicking my knees and shin.

They hit Smitaji on her lower-back and spine. The boys of ASMITA, and some more men pulled us all up and all of them formed protection girdles around the girls to push us out of the range of the water cannons and charging men in KHAKI AND BLUE.

Visibility was poor due to fog and tear gas; many girls were hit; even when we were running away and saying, “Ham jaa rahen hain, hame mat mariye”,…. they were hitting the boys rampantly, constantly spitting abuses on the girls. Many women reporters were also hit and chased, their vans attacked, equipments broken. Some girls still managed to pull a few lathis and gave it back to the men. I don’t know what happened to the children in the group and how the aunties in saris managed to run. I just hope they are all well.

There was not a single ambulance in sight; the entire C- Hexagon of India Gate was empty, barring the police. We walked for almost 45 min, as there was no way out from the outer circle. Finally we managed to duck behind press vans and escaped via Shahjahan Road.

Do I look like a hooligan? Was I armed? Was I provoking the police or creating a nuisance? Was I resorting to violence, by sitting there and listening to, or sharing our personal grievances of Sexual harassment and assault? You judge for yourself.

Agreed, that in such gatherings, some nasty elements do infiltrate and create a raucous, but the police didn’t seem to have the basic sensibility to differentiate between hooligans and some young girls, children, and elderly people.

If the Delhi Police and RAF lack the basic cognizance to recognize the good from bad, what protection can we expect from them? Instead I thank the men of Delhi, the boys of Delhi, who helped all the girls to escape from the wrath of THE POLICE. 

I request the people who were present there, to paint the correct picture, so that Mr.Manmohan Singh, Mr.Shinde and others would get the correct picture of what happened on the ground.

I request the PM and the Home Minister to believe that “I, the woman of India,” am not violent or the ‘Shame of the nation’… that we have to be ashamed that the world is watching. I was not offensive. But I will definitely stand up again to defend myself, my mother, my daughter and my kind. Let the world watch.