अब मशालें थामने का वक़्त है, अंगार बनिए।
शासकों की नींद, धीमे बोल से खुलती नहीं है,
मुठ्ठियों को भींचकर चिल्लाइये, हुंकार बनिए”।
It is time to hold a torch, become a flame.
Soft words don’t wake up rulers from deep sleep,
Time to shout loud with clenched fist, become a thunder.”
These words of a poet were put into action by the people of Bhiwandi on 20 Mar 2018. They came out in thousands and thousands shouting slogans to show their anger against rapes in Kathua and Unnao and to demand immediate and the most severe punishment for the guilty.
The protest march was organized by the Lok Raj Sangathan, Bhiwandi Committee, along with Jamiat Ulema, Maharashtra, and Jamat-e-Islami, Maharashtra. People were upset to know that in both the cases people in power were involved and shielded. They were arrested only after protests were organised all over the country. A policeman was involved in the gang-rape and killing of the child, Asifa while the so-called ‘people’s representative’, MLA of the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh, was responsible for the torture and repeated rape of the young girl in Unnao. Open support was given by the Ministers belonging to the coalition partner of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. The girl in Unnao had shown extraordinary courage in persisting with her demand of punishment for the guilty. She persisted despite receiving threats from this man who had a lot of power; he had organised to kill her father. People in the country, including in Bhiwandi, are still not confident that perpetrators of the crime in Kathua and Unnao will be given exemplary punishment so that no one dares repeat such a crime. They are not confident that people in power would not stop shielding the guilty so they want to keep protesting till justice is done. They will not allow their unity to be broken through efforts to communalise the issue.
People of Bhiwandi participated vigorously in the protest. They had gathered a couple hours before the time of the protest. Hundreds of placards and banners raised the spirit of everyone and made the atmosphere militant. Placards like ‘Government, stop shielding the rapists and murderers’, ‘No more rapists as legislators’, ‘Punish the guilty without delay’, ‘Indian unites again rape and murder’, ‘Human rights are not optional’, ‘An attack on one is an attack on all’, ‘You cannot divide us on communal basis’, ‘We unite to defend our mothers and sisters’, ‘It’s not about religion, it’s about humanity’, ‘Give severe punishment to the rapists’ were conveying the feelings of all those present in the protest.
Thousands of leaflets proved to be too little to cover all the participants. Many more groups joined the morcha to swell the number to over 15,000 as it moved to the office of Prant Officer to submit the memorandum. The memorandum demanded that all the criminals of crimes against women must be quickly brought to book and the severest punishment be given to them. It also asked the local authorities to announce in local newspapers the steps they are taking to ensure complete safety and security of our mothers and sisters in Bhiwandi and the surrounding areas irrespective of their religion or caste.
The protest march was preceded by many short speeches including those of the Lok Raj Sangathan and the Communist Ghadar party of India. On behalf of the Lok Raj Sangathan, Dr Das congratulated the people of Bhiwandi for coming out in such large numbers to protest against crimes against women. The people of Bhiwandi have not allowed themselves to become victims of communal hatred, spread by those in power. He exhorted them to maintain their unity against every injustice. The Communist Ghadar Party representative appreciated the initiative taken by all the organizations in coming out in large numbers to express their outrage and to demand exemplary punishment for those guilty of heinous rapes. She condemned the attempts of the State to shield the guilty. She said we have to carry on our fight till we succeed in building a new society, free of all exploitation and oppression and where women would truly enjoy the dignity, freedom and respect they deserve.
Both Mufti Mohammad Huzaifa Qasmi of Jamait-Ulema and Moulana Awsaf Falaahi of Jamat-e Islami condemned the violence against women and demanded punishment of guilty without delay. They said these are crimes against entire humanity and have nothing to do with religion. We should stay united to demand justice for victims. Many other organizations, including Dr. Intikhab Shaikh of Movement for Peace and Justice and Com Anil Tyagi of the SUCI (Communist) extended their support to the demands.
All the participating organisations experienced the strength of the collaborative effort and pledged to continue to work together on this and other issues affecting the people.