Even as questions continue to be raised over the way protests against the gang rape of a medical student turned violent at India Gate resulting in the death of constable Subhash Chand Tomar, agitators at Jantar Mantar on Tuesday expressed remorse and betrayed a sense of guilt over the tragedy. But they blamed “hooligans” for the death, which, they argued, occurred due to “mishandling” of the situation by the authorities.
Referring to the “strong” presence of volunteers of political groups at Jantar Mantar, they said the protest movement had “changed” from what it was at the beginning, as “now anti-government political groups were trying to hijack the protest and have been asking the agitators to join and have even offered ticket to fight elections.”
Jharna, a student of Indraprastha University who has been part of the protests, said: “We are very sad at the way things turned out that day, but we never wanted this. We didn’t want anybody to die. We were protesting at India Gate peacefully but some hooligans and groups with vested interest joined the peaceful crowd and started creating trouble, which could have been handled more appropriately by the authorities.”
In regretting the “unfortunate” death of the constable, Jharna was joined by Manisha, an architect by training. “It is quite difficult for us to come to terms with the fact that even though we are fighting for justice to the rape victim, one person has died unnecessarily, a death which could have been avoided. I want to tell this to the family that we never wished or wanted this,” she said.
Manisha pointed to a havan which Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad activists performed at Jantar Mantar, while talking about the political groups’ attempt to “politicise” the protests. “Now the political parties have been approaching us. But when we talk to them, it turns out that the cause of ensuring justice to rape victim is not their priority. All they are interested is political mileage,” she added, while resolving to keep the protest “apolitical.”
Prashant Kaushik, a resident of Delhi, underscored that the protesters and the spirit which was found at India Gate in the first few days were “absent” at Jantar Mantar. But students like Manisha and Jharna, who have sustained the agitation, were not bogged down even as the turnout at the protest site has been gradually decreasing.
In an attempt at mobilising students and youth, they have created several pages on Facebook dedicated to the rape victim. They have also decided to mobilise students of colleges in Delhi University by pasting notice at he college gates.
“We want justice for the rape victim and we will keep the spirit alive at any cost,” said Jharna. On Wednesday, they would meet all the students’ groups to chalk out a future strategy to take the movement forward.
Referring once again to their demands, Jharna said: “We want very harsh punishment to the rapists so that what happened with the poor girl doesn’t get repeated. Besides a very strong law on rape and sexual assault cases, we want the government to ensure safe and secure public space for women. We won’t stop protesting unless we see the changes on the ground.”