New Year’s Eve: Blowin’ in the Wind

Amit Sengupta

All the young ones in the locality seemed to have withdrawn, there were no bonfires, not one cracker was burst, no dancing and partying, not one sound of a loud ‘Happy New Year’
Amit Sengupta Delhi 

As the night froze on New Year’s Eve, we were all working on this cover story till almost midnight. The streets were empty, with heavy police barricades, even before Barapullah Bridge, that magical flyover which flies next to the equally magical four garden architecture of Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi. The night air was cold and the fog dense, and the cold moved inside my eyes and fingers, and inside my shoes, and I realised how vulnerable one can become, and how fragile is this body. 

Like millions of others, we too had decided to share the solidarity of this universal sorrow, seeking justice for her, seeking justice for all. For once, the nation-state seemed intangibly real in its unity and diversity; goodness and virtue seemed a principled paradigm, freedom and dignity, justice and humanism became a fundamental right. For once, women were not mytholised or demonised or brutalised. Women became not only equals and fighters for a different social order, they sought to reclaim their private and public spaces, social and political spaces, spaces of freedom and self-expression, spaces of civilised, sensitive, rational, humane conduct where masculine perversity and cannibalism does not become a legitimate fantasy and theatre of barbarism.

On 31st night, disciplined and resolute JNU students of this beautiful, Left, liberating campus, who have given a radical and visionary shape to the movement, yet again marched to Munirka. The bus stand, with its posters, has become a kind of a monument

Events had taken us by storm, with their breathless, restless unpredictability, the protests were growing stronger by the day, the fire was spreading, the mourning and loss and grief deep, deeper and heartfelt, felt across the Indian landscape, across cities, small towns and villages. This was something unusual and extraordinary. Everyone seemed to be touched by this injustice to a young girl, though arguments and responses had various layers, from the streets to the subalterns to middle class drawing rooms. Surely, it will take an untiring, protracted movement to uplift and change social consciousness and entrenched prejudices, but an enlightened, elevated beginning has been yet again made. It’s a long haul, but, yes, there will be songs and poetry even in the darkness. The wave of this new consciousness against violence against women has now become a steadfast realism of contemporary India.

On the 31st, as I reached home around midnight, preparing to withdraw with a book, there was almost total darkness. Not one music system played, all the young ones in the locality seemed to have withdrawn, there were no bonfires, not one cracker was burst, no dancing and partying, not one sound of a loud ‘Happy New Year’. This silence was both unnerving and life-affirming.

On the night of the 31st, disciplined and resolute JNU students of this beautiful Left, liberating campus, who have given a radical and visionary shape to the movement, yet again marched to Munirka, the bus stand from where she was picked up. The bus stand, with its posters, has become a kind of a monument. Earlier, when she died, they had all collected there, in a silent, strong rally of both condolence and resistance, a stoic, resilient mix. On the 31st night there were sufi songs, prayers and protests on the campus. In the daytime, they had reclaimed spaces in Connaught Place, led by the gutsy, radical students of AISA. Students from Delhi University marched from the Vishwavidyalaya Metro Station in hundreds, reclaiming both the evening and the night.

At the PVR-Anupam multiplex in South Delhi, women’s groups had given a call to come together on the 31st night, and stay till after midnight. This is a totally different feminist discourse being redefined in the hitherto apolitical and alienated spaces of Delhi, marked by the indifference of its elite and middle class. And this language is being given a new lilt and dialect by the younger aspirants of a new generation, many of them female, many of them from small towns and distant parts of India, like that girl on the bus, reshaping, perhaps, the future of hope and resistance.

Indeed, as our cover story proves, this was marked across the Indian landscape, from Ballia, Siliguri, Lucknow, Udaipur, to Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Chennai.

Significantly, the big parties and other political opportunists were not allowed to hijack the movement. They were shown their place. Rahul Gandhi, the so-called ‘youth icon’, has simply disappeared from this rainbow kaleidoscope of resistance. Where is he?

The political class must beware: A new wave of new rage has arrived and things cannot be the same anymore. The writing on the wall is lucid and clear. The song is back. Yes, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: JANUARY 2013