Co-authored by Debalin Roy, Nitika Kakkar, Piyush Nagpal and Ekta Handa:
Bacchi Devi gets up in the early hours of the day as usual and sees a stage being set up across the street. She turns around and goes about her routine. This is not a new sight for her anymore. She has been living at Jantar Mantar for the past four months now. The place is full of protesters. They come here to get justice but, at best, end up being a small part of some report in a newspaper or channel on a slow news day. Bachhi Devi knows it all too well. She’s also one of them. Yet, she and her husband Ravindra Giri are hopeful that their struggle will put their son’s murderers behind bars.
On October 26, 2015, Rahul Giri, a resident of Ghuggus in Chandrapur District, Maharashtra, Bacchi Devi’s son, was murdered in the wee hours of morning. The alleged perpetrators, Sonu Gogla and Shiva Gomewar, were imprisoned after long periods of deliberation on the part of the police and hard work on the part of Bacchi Devi and Ravindra Giri, only to be acquitted by the court in a month.
Right since getting acquitted, the perpetrators began threatening Rahul’s parents with dire consequences if they do not take back their complaint. But they did not relent. After contacting several higher officials in the Maharashtra Police Department and other government offices, discussing their plight with several policemen, politicians and social workers, and being shunned or ignored by everyone, they came to Jantar Mantar to sit in an indefinite protest in the month of November last year.
Since coming to Jantar Mantar they have tried to get the attention of Government officials and the media, but with no success so far. Bacchi Devi has sent letters to the Prime Minister’s Office, President and Home Minister’s Office. “The governmental offices provide us with a stamped received certificate and that’s the end of the story each time,” says a distraught Bachhi Devi. “We have tried to contact the media as well. We visited many media houses in Noida – Aaj Tak, Zee News, Star, but no one takes up our cause,” she adds.
Then one day some media persons told her to climb a tree and threaten to commit suicide during Arvind Kejriwal’s rally, which was about to take place in a week’s time at Jantar Mantar. She did as she was told and before Kejriwal even turned up, the police took her away and declared her to be mentally ill. They even got a fake certificate made in her name at Ram Manohar Lohiya Hospital, which the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences later rejected.
Back home as well, the couple has faced many problems. They have been threatened and attacked by the alleged murderers of their son many times. Rahul was killed due to a business feud but his parents’ persistence to get justice is becoming dangerous for them. Bacchi and her husband allege that due to a strong political backing by BJP MP Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, the killers of their son are roaming freely while both of them have confined their lives to this cause. Ravindra says, “If they cannot give us justice, then I request the President and Ministers to give us permission to commit suicide.”
Located in the heart of the city, Jantar Mantar, once only famous for the historical site, is now the Centre-approved site for protests. It is the place where one can find supporters of Asaram Bapu protesting against his custody and victims such as Daljeet Kaur demanding justice against her rape.
While some like Bacchi Devi are relatively new here, it has become home for protesters like Santosh Kumar Singh, who has been at the ‘Protest Street’ for the past five years, trying to prove that he is alive to a system that states he is dead. Jantar Mantar as a site for protest came into prominence only after 1993, when former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao declared it as the official venue to hold protests in the capital. It was stated that the Government will now easily collect information regarding protesting civilians and groups as they would be within a stipulated space. Since then, Jantar Mantar has seen thousands of protests, but only a handful of them have been looked into by the Government.
Watch their full interview here: