This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Dhruv Arora. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

21st April 2013: The Day I Realized I Am No Longer A Part Of A Democratic Nation

More from Dhruv Arora

Republished from GotStared.at

By Dhruv Arora:

A fair warning: this may seem a little lengthy but I would urge you to read the whole thing.

This is an account of the protests at India Gate held in the context of the #DelhiRape on the 21st April, 2013. More importantly, however, it is an account of the day that shook me to my core and brought me to a realization that we may be living in a militant nation today.

This is a love story of me and the “World’s Largest Democracy”.

apr21st_site-460x270Shaken and disturbed by the gruesome rape, and highly motivated to voice our opinions, me and a couple of friends had decided to go to India Gate today to be a part of the protests that were going to take place starting 4pm today. I had been a part of the massive protests that had happened in India Gate following the 16th December rape case, and expected no less. We reached India Gate a little before 4 pm and, as we expected, saw what looked like the entire nations’ police and riot control defences ready to take on the protesters.

The site was so bizarre, I thought to myself maybe there is a bigger threat that I may not have been aware of. Surely, such heavy artillery would not be required for the protesters, now, would it? I found myself in awe of the tens of police trucks and the water cannons around me. This picture does not do justice to the atmosphere, but I’m hoping it will be enough to give you an idea.

IMG_0482

We were aware that Section 144 of CrPc had been invoked at India Gate, even though there was no rationale for having issued such an order in the first place. Yes, people were protesting in context to the brutal rape case, but I would have assumed for that to be a good thing. People were raising their voice for what they did not approve of, and this was required. Nevertheless, as we walked towards India Gate from Shahjahan Road, we realized that behind the labyrinth of the defence forces guarding India Gate, all access to the actual site of Amar Jawan Jyoti was revoked. It then hit us that it had been this way forever, and we crossed over to the first open park to the left and sat down there, waiting for more protesters to show up.

As more familiar faces started arriving, we heard that the AISA crowd was arriving at Central Secretariat, and they would start moving from there towards India Gate. So we got up and rushed to Central Secretariat, and we reached just in time as the AISA crowd had just arrived. We turned around and joined them in marching towards India Gate almost the second we reached Central Secretariat. It was on.

What happened in the next couple of hours, however, was surreal, and completely changed my perspective on how the system works.

Call me a fool, but I was under the impression that since we were assembling for a peaceful protest (which we maintained throughout the day), we wouldn’t face too many problems. We started walking through India Gate chanting our demands for freedom without fear, and asking for the resignation of the officials responsible for misbehaving with the rape victim’s family and also the immediate de-throning of the official that slapped the female protester multiple times in connection with this case. For some reason, as we started walking, I realized people were starting to run. I was a little confused, before I realized that we were running because the police was starting to put up barriers preventing us from walking towards India Gate.

April 21st Protest big
Photo courtesy: Chandan Gomes

Keep in mind, now, that we were equipped with words, signs and demands, and nothing else. We had no intentions of getting violent at all, and we didn’t  We just wanted to be able to protest in our own city about things that affected us, and do that without fear. The irony shines through, however, as our demands of freedom without fear were met with such an aggressively enforced attempt to limit our freedom to be able to walk in a city that apparently belonged to us.

As we reached the barricade, again, peacefully, yet focused on our demands, they tried to stop us from proceeding and we bypassed the barricade from either sides and continued marching on. At this point, we were quite scattered and were just trying to make sure that our voices were not subdued in the way they were trying to curb our freedom.

As we ran across another barricade, we noticed the reason we were able to briskly bypass all the barriers was because they were trying to split us up into smaller groups, surround us and stop us. This happened, as one of my female friends who was right in front of me bypassed a barricade from the left, and headed into the next section of India Gate. It was now that a group of women police officials surrounded her, grabbed her and started pulling her towards a bus that was waiting to detain people and take them away. As we saw this, an entire group of us rushed towards her, grabbed her and would not let go. We demanded that the police let her go, as we did not intend to get violent, we simply wanted to voice our opinions. The exchange lasted for a few minutes following which with the efforts of the entire bunch of us, we managed to free her of their grip and pull her back and away. One of our friends, Shubham, who was also trying to free her of the officials’ grasps, quickly proceeded to move forward as she was let go. We all collected around her and after making sure she was fine, we proceeded to the next barricade.

At this barricade, we realized they had completely locked us in. We tried to move forward, but they wouldn’t let us go. A couple of people gathered around and told us that they would wait for another bus full of protesters from JNU to join us here, after which we would proceed in walking towards India Gate. It was then that we realized that Shubham was nowhere to be found. When I last saw him, he was responding to an aggressive bunch of police officials who were trying to shove him towards the bus, shouting at them to leave him alone. It took us about 5 minutes before we realized he wasn’t there at all.

Shubham had been taken away by the police. A couple of people who saw this happened confirmed this, and then it began.

We rushed to the front of the barricade where the ACP was standing and asked him the whereabouts of our friend. The officials told us that nobody had been detained. Nevertheless, we split up, and a bunch of people went to the local police station (Parliament Street), as we stayed there in an attempt to find out where our friend had gone. As Gautam Bhan stayed there arguing with the police officials trying to find out any whereabouts of where Shubham had disappeared to, we tried incessantly calling him, to no response. We had no idea where had disappeared to.

A couple of people noticed us making noise about our friend and came to us, and told us that they saw him being taken away in one of the police buses. Meanwhile, the police was telling Gautam that they wouldn’t tell us the whereabouts of where they had taken him till we would disperse the protesters (which was odd because just a while ago they were telling us that nobody had been detained), as the people who had gone to the police station confirmed he wasn’t taken there. At this time, we were terrified. The police was quite literally holding Shubham’s location ransom till we would disperse the crowd. I didn’t know they could do that, and as it seemed, section 144 apparently gave them godlike powers.

We rushed to the bus he was taken away in and the driver told us that he had, in fact, dropped our friend to the barricade all the way back, and he was taken somewhere from there. A bunch of us rushed to the barricade in question, hopeful that we may find him there. However, when we reached, we saw nothing. We asked the police officials guarding the barricade where our friend had been taken from there, and their response, as nonchalant as it could have been, was that he could have been taken “anywhere”, and their best guess was that he was taken to somewhere around the Delhi Border.

We were terrified. No information of our friend and the added speculation had us worried about where he had been taken to, as he was still not answering his phone. We rushed back to where they had stopped the entire crowd where Gautam was still engaged in an intense conversation with the ACP and the other officials present there about divulging the location of our friend. As we rejoined Gautam, we told him what the officials at the other end had told us that Shubham must have been taken to some border around Delhi. It was at this point that the officials turned it around on us and I heard the officials say something I still cannot forget,

Tum khabre bana rahe ho. (your guys are creating false news) For all we know, you guys have taken him somewhere in a car and are trying to create a conspiracy targeting us

Apparently, we had hidden our own friend, transported him to a border and were making up stories about his disappearance. We requested, demanded, screamed and insisted that all we were asking for was the location of where he was taken to, to no avail. In fact, they now claimed that nothing of this sort had happened at all, at which point another protester came forward with this photograph of the person in question (in green) being pulled away by a swarm of officials dressed in civilian clothes to the bus:

2013-04-21-0515-1024x574

As soon as this happened, we called the bunch of our friends who had gone to the police station to lodge a missing persons’ complaint regarding Shubham, and as we came back after making that phone call, Gautam had spoken to the officials who claimed they were getting our friend back. I quickly called back our other friends asking them to not file the complaint, and wait till we called them back.

After about 15 minutes of waiting, Shubham rejoined us. He told us that nobody hurt him, but the aggression with which he was being pulled away resulted in a torn t-shirt and marks on his forehead. They had kept him at one of the police sheds in India Gate and had forbidden him to use his cell-phone at all, which is why he couldn’t respond to us. He tried to put on a brave face, but was visibly shaking at this point. We just hugged him and thanked our stars that we had him back. The police officials quirkily asked us to disperse now since he was back, we had no intentions of doing them any favours. We also got the news that the bus that was supposed to be arriving with the other protestors had been intercepted by the police midway and had been diverted to ITO, where they had begun protesting.

It was clear to us that we weren’t going anywhere. The police then told us that they would fill us up in their buses and transport us to ITO, and they started guiding us to the buses. We had held our fort for a couple of hours, and were ready to go join our other fellow protesters at ITO, so we were escorted into the buses which took us away from India Gate to ITO.

In the bus, we sang songs of freedom, of freedom from the clutches of patriarchy and a failing system. We chanted and demanded for freedom from this daadagiri, for freedom from this militant atmosphere. We demanded that we wanted to be free as was promised to us by our constitution. We were singing like there was no tomorrow, and that was all we could think of doing at that moment. What was going on inside my head was a flurry of confusing thoughts. Unsure of what to think, who to hold this against, I simply joined everyone in this unique celebration of sorrow. The atmosphere gave me a strange hope, but it was although that the hope kept fading away almost as quickly as I could imagine it. We were stopped near Mandi House, and were asked to walk the rest of the way to the protest. We didn’t mind.

We got out of the bus, walked through the barricade they had put up to stop us in our tracks, and we shouted. We shouted our demands and proclaimed our anger at the officials. We hugged each other and echoed on harmoniously towards our other friends who were waiting for us at the end of the strange march forward. The road was empty, and we screamed. We screamed till we couldn’t speak anymore, and we reached ITO.

I can’t say whether it was a protest, or a strange celebration and condemnation of a culture that we all wanted to kill so bad. People were chanting to the beat, walking around in circles, some sitting in the center  I had, however, backed up by now and was collecting my thoughts, because I hadn’t done that till now.

After a while, every bone in my body aching from the excruciatingly exhausting day, I thought to myself about what had happened during the course of the day. I asked myself what I was feeling at the moment, and a strange realization hit me. I wasn’t angry at the police as much anymore. I was pitying them, as they had to do the dirty work based on orders by a very scared bunch of higher-ups. I realized, how the whole charade of the implementation of section 144 was a ridiculous and laughable attempt at depriving us of our rights to exist without fear in our own country, and I realized how the democracy that we all love so much and cherish had melted away long back into the hands of greedy, power hungry and a highly corrupted government.

I realized, at no cost would I let the discussion be taken away from the hideous rape case to what had happened to me today, and I re-focused myself. The strange realization that hit me was that the numbers of the police spoke for themselves, we must continue protesting, and they were scared. And along with that, we were also harmoniously chiming into a new melody of people screaming out that they had had enough of the patriarchal setup and wanted to END all forms of violence. What made me the happiest, however, that inspite of the fact that so many different groups had come together in a protest, we remained calm and did not become violent, and that we didn’t need to. They were scared and running for cover, and the society was listening to our demands that we had had enough. There were about 20 police officials for every single protester there today. They are terrified, alright.

I have come out of the excessively long and tiring day with a fresh belief and a hope in my heart, a desire to protest for every single day I have remaining in my life and raise my voice about everything I must speak out against. I am going to vote, even though I may not believe in change through it as much as I would like to, and I am never going to die down. Even though the 16th December protests were larger in public numbers, this protests will forever go down as the day that changed me, and not just against the government and the systems, but against ourselves too, against the death of humanity, against our patriarchal mindset.

Thank you for holding me back, dear system, for you have ensured that I never hesitate to raise my voice ever again, and you are not going to threaten me into shutting up.

You must be to comment.
  1. Ritesh Anan

    @Dhruv Arora – “respect” and “appreciation” for you…..and a ‘salute’ to your spirit

  2. Shiavngi

    OMG!!!!!!!! This is proposterous. what ill share next is an angry citizen trying to amke sense of this draconian indian state.

    I was there in the 22nd Dec. protest at india gate, i experienced exactly wt u and thousands of others there experienced, IT WS FOR THE WORLD TO SEE!! no democracy in the world should dare to treat its own citizens like criminals and terrorists. We are more educated than the policemen, they shud knw they can’t treat a citizen ds way. last time they took YOUNG GIRL PROTESTERS in their vans and put them at the delhi border…i think on karnal road. WOMEN! LEFT THEM THERE! ALONE! i read ds in papers. imagine how they might be treating the poor and weaker sections… and their women!!

    WE HAVE RIGHTS DON’T WE? BUT WHO DO WE GO TO WHEN OUR RIGHTS ARE BEING VIOLATED BY THE POLICE AND POLITICIANS THEMSELVES? and the apathy i must say, the ignorance and 1st world sucking up middle class idnians.. THERE ARE SOME OF THOSE… by default bcme part of the prob. —

    these orders come from above!! to do all ds, the politicians and the senior leaders CANNOT NOT KNOW ..in fact THEY ARE THE ONES WHO GIVE these orders. THIS MAKES IT OBV. HOW THEY TREAT THE PEOPLE BACK IN THE VILLAGES, THOSE POOR ONES ARE EVEN ILLITERATE AND MORE POWERLESS AND HELPLESS…IT IS OBVIOUS TO EVRY1 TODAY… then forget bout being a democracy.– the govt. and its allies i.e. police and other capitalist powerful moguls seem to have come together and are only workin for money… they cud care less bout the civilians. in most villages and states in fact, little has changed since the times of british raj…IN FACT in many cities, say like UP… ITS ACTUALLY GNE WORSE. the govt. is not focused on governing…and i may not be wrong to believe that rural population is not being neglected…BUT INTENTIONALLY BRUTALLY RULED!! i think its time to get PARANOID…AND REALLLY REALLLY ANGRY… the world shud knw the truth bout wt indian govt. is doing to its people.

    imagine the response we get 4m our commissioner… “i will sue kajriwal” REALLY? DTS UR BLOODY PLAN TO TACKLE THE CRIME SITUATION? by now u shudve had 10 meetings and a blueprint of how ull reform the forces nd immedtiately to protect ALL CITIZENS… nt jz women. AB 144 KYU NI LAGAYA JAB YE crime-EPIDEMIC BAN GAYA HAI (acknowledged internationally)? #WakeUpToAnotherFreedomMovement !!

    why don’t we have our own ‘anonymous’? :\\ praying for a better world.

  3. harish

    It’s sad that my Dad had to go through so much sh*t ensuring that political goons didn’t hijack your pathetic anti-Govt. protests and cause death and destruction. It’s armchair intellectuals like you who like to do NOTHING about the society but love to rant and rave. You disgust me. If you really want to do something, then give the UPSC exam and join the police. Like my dad did. Because he wanted to change the state of matters. Stop living in your fantasy world of malls and pubs and get down to the dirty, ugly hell-hole called lndia – Son of a police officer, also giving the UPSC exam

More from Dhruv Arora

Similar Posts

By IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

By Vaishnavi Gond

By Satyam Giri

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below