Gender · India · Rights · Sexual violence

The Anatomy of a Protest

Freedom, enshrined in the constitution of India and safety for India’s women from sexual assault at home or outside. The brutal gang-rape and eventual death of a 23-year-old girl on her way from a movie in the evening on Sunday evening in December triggered an awakening that took many by surprise. Perhaps the simplest explanation for it is the sense of identification with the victim – the ordinariness of the evening, the girl, the movie she watched and the aspirations she had for herself, and represented for so many like her, was all it took to say enough is enough. The anger building up over years to boiling point – as crime after crime against women make the headlines – whether it’s the killings of Jessica Lal, Soumya Vishwanathan or Pallavi Purkayashta, or the rapes of women and children across the country.

Political parties, unsure of whether to co-opt or criticise an angry public, often find themselves caught on the wrong foot. The protesters on the streets of Delhi, bracing water cannons in the biting cold, rejected them, irrespective of dispensation. While academics and journalists tried to bracket this new protester, perhaps what emerged most clearly is that when it comes to issues that hit home directly – health, safety, livelihood, the urban Indian is fast realising  politics is about much more than casting a vote and is slowly but surely making crucial linkages it needs to between what affects an individual and what affects a nation.

The December 2012 protests became a catalyst for change- and India saw a redefinition of its laws on rape and sexual violence against women. This was my documentary in January 2013, just 2 weeks after Nirbhaya died- to understand the anatomy of a protest.

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