Sweating profusely on a humid Wednesday evening, traffic cop Surender Singh is busy managing vehicles during this peak hour. Before they can even ask, Singh directs two young girls to a spot nearly 200 m away, saying: “Is taraf jaiye, madam.” (Go that side, Ma’am).
The destination of the girls is easy to figure out as they are carrying placards with messages about the issue that has shaken the entire nation’s conscience.
Despite it being a working day, over 1,500 people from all walks of life had gathered at Jantar Mantar to register their protest against the government at the Centre, following frequent lynching of innocent people over the issue of cow and beef. Titled ‘Not In My Name’, the protest attracted people from different stations in life.
The motley crowd had men wearing long cotton kurtas over jeans and women sporting big bindis, making it look like a scene straight out of a revolutionary movie. From playwrights to journalists, feminists, actors, leaders, and the common man, everyone listened with rapt attention as Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s famous words, Bol Ke Lab Azaad Hain Tere, floated in the air.
“The current atmosphere in the country is not conducive to live in. We live in a constant shadow of fear. Not only just one community, all of us are scared of what may be,” said Yamini, a second year Delhi University (DU) student.
In a corner, stood JNU student Umar Khalid, deeply engrossed in a discussion that was ‘not about a particular political ideology’. But the main theme was clear, the worrying rise of the Right Wing in the country. Social activist Shabnam Hashmi, sister of Safdar Hashmi who was lynched two decades ago, said: “The government is working on an agenda to widen the divide on the basis of religion. The environment is getting more vicious by the day.”
An hour into the event that started around 6 pm, the crowd started swelling and so did the noise, asking the government to “act and rein in” the non-parliamentary forces that were bringing a bad name to it. “Any responsible establishment will take cognizance and act pronto against such senseless violence. Turning a blind eye won’t help any one, least of all the state,” said Shastri Ramachandran, political commentator.