Protesters across India hit the streets, say outraged over attacks on human life
The protests were seen as an immediate reaction to the brutal stabbing of a 16-year-old Muslim boy, Junaid, on a train.india Updated: Jul 16, 2017 07:21 IST
Thousands took to the streets of 10-odd cities across the country on Wednesday to protest a string of mob lynchings in recent years, which many say is proof of India’s fraying secular ethos.
In several places, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata, protesters gathered under the “Not In My Name” banner to make a strong statement against violence perpetrated by right-wing Hindu groups and cow-protection vigilantes.
The Delhi protest saw people pouring in from neighbouring states, such as Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Though several Aam Aadmi Party leaders – including deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia – were in attendance, they claimed to have come in their personal capacity.
“We are laying our claim as Indian citizens upon this country… we are outraged at the attacks on human life, human dignity… at the systemic violence unleashed on Dalits and minorities,” said filmmaker Saba Dewan, whose post on Facebook a week ago helped coalesce the coordinated demonstrations. “This is not the India we want.”
She was speaking to a crowd of around 2,000 that had braved the rain to gather in central Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. People of all ages and walks of life trooped in, some carrying babies on one arm and holding placards that read “Stop this violence” and “Our collective voice against hate” with the other.
The protests were seen as an immediate reaction to the brutal stabbing of a 16-year-old Muslim boy, Junaid, on a train. Earlier this month, a Muslim social worker was lynched allegedly by government officials in Rajasthan.
Muslim dairy farmer Pehlu Khan was killed by cow protection vigilantes at Rajasthan’s Alwar in April. The families of Junaid and Pehlu were also present at the site of the Delhi protest.
Experts say instances of violence against Muslims and Dalits have mounted since the BJP government stormed to power in 2014, and cow protection groups and right-wing groups now unleash their brand of terror with impunity. Wednesday’s protests, the organisers said, was their way of telling the administration that such violence cannot be perpetrated in the name of religion.
“Why do mobs think they have the power to take someone’s life? A big role is played by political patronage,” said lawyer Vrinda Grover. “Today (they operate with) brazen and absolute impunity, and the signal for that comes from the top.”
In Mumbai, several film and television stars – including Vikrant Massey, Rajat Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Konkona Sen Sharma and Kalki Koechlin – joined the protesters on Carter Road.
“Violence in the name of religion is sacrilegious. It is high time all of us, regardless of caste and community, stood up against it,” said activist Gordon D’Souza.
In Lucknow, protesters wore black armbands and accused the government of treating cow-protection vigilantes like heroes. The agitators in Hyderabad held up copies of the Constitution to assert their fundamental rights. Bengaluru saw historian Ramachandra Guha and playwright Girish Karnad joining the protesters.
In Kolkata, filmmaker Aparna Sen figured among the many prominent personalities who participated in the demonstration.