On 28th February, a protest and poster campaign was organized by Nazariya: A Grassroots LGBT-Straight Alliance and students from Delhi University starting from the back park of Lady Shri Ram College and ending at Amar Colony Market. It was a protest in response to deplorable act committed by the men who threw balloons filled with questionable substances at an LSR student which started a discourse on harassment culture surrounding Holi. Students printed posters calling out the public for normalising harassment in the name of tradition and chanted slogans like “Pittrasatta se azaadi”, “Semen Go Back”, and “Bura maano Holi hai” in reply to the common saying “Bura na maano Holi hai” which is often used as an excuse for the horrendous antics played on people during Holi.
“I feel that the protest was a knock, a loud knock on the doors of those men who objectify women and believe they can’t speak up. It was a step towards a society where women are respected equally as men are,” says Abhyuday, a DU student.
Likewise, another student, Brinda, added: “It made me realise what flying is like despite having your wings chained. Maybe the cage of patriarchy hasn’t completely opened yet but the taste of freedom never felt sweeter.“
Holi in recent times has become increasingly violent and predatory and the fact that the self proclaimed nationalists think that hooliganism is an integral part of Holi is an attack on the very tradition that they are claiming to protect. We believed therefore that it was important to start a dialogue with the public. So after the addressal and discussion on “Consent, rape culture, and Holi”, the protesters personally conversed with the onlookers and informed them about the reasons behind the protest and campaign. A few hours after the protest, another news of a sticky substance filled balloon being thrown at a girl at Amar Colony was shared on the protest group on WhatsApp and the group and some students from LSR gathered at around 7 pm and chanted slogans in front of the perpetrator’s house and proceeded to file an F.I.R.
Nazariya faced “trolling” from various right wing pages and accounts online while planning the event, to a point where they infiltrated into our whatsapp group and tried to sabotage the protest by calling group members and posting pictures apparently meant to provoke us. We later found out that the main leader attended our protest and posted personal information about the organisers on 4chan which prompted us to file an F.I.R. against the group which is currently awaiting investigation.
All these experiences have been extremely overwhelming for us emotionally. Every Holi season we talk about the need to prevent public disorder but we don’t see much action from law enforcement or authorities. Every year we repost and write articles about consent when Holi comes near but our words rarely translate into action. This isn’t even only about gender based harassment. It is a matter of consent. Are we going to take steps to change the culture? Or are we going to come back here next year chanting the same slogans as we get assaulted on our way to and from the protest?
We recall something Pragya (yet another student) had shared with us. “A rickshaw-wala, who wanted to share his opinions with us, was pushed away by an old man because according to him, we were stupid children,” she tells us. “We gave the rickshaw-wala a chance to speak and he went on to describe how sad the harassment around Holi makes him, especially because people of many different cultures live together in this little city. The fact that there are people who are not educated much but cultured enough to know the difference between right and wrong lit me up. It gave me hope.“