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Issue No.: 550 | April 2013

The New Delhi Protest

Nitin G. Raut
If the popular outrage frightened the Congress UPA leaders and Minister from meeting peaceful protesters, what protection can an aam admi expect?

The New Delhi protest against the brutal gang rape of Nirbhaya on 16 December 2012 is considered akin to Tahrir Square protest in Cairo. In a sense it is but only in terms of spontaneity, outburst of youth anger and mass protest without organized leadership. It was not as violent as Tahrir. It was the pent-up anger that exploded against a policy of drift and corruption, policy paralysis and unaccountability. It was the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back.

The initial reaction of the Congress-UPA Government to the protest was one of indifference hoping that the protest peters out. There was a show of imperious arrogance of the entrenched power. None of the ruling big wigs came to meet the protestors who were only demanding justice for the gang rape victim Nirbhaya and a speedy trial of the accused. It was the usual brinkmanship to test the resilience of the protesters. The coalition leadership was neither visible on the field nor in action. 

Ostrich-like Reaction

Where was the Congress- UPA leadership? It was safely ensconced in the safe confines of their palatial Lutyen bungalows in the same way as the French nobility was in their castles in 1789 when the people marched to Bastille Prisons demanding justice and freedom for prisoners whose only crime was that they had protested against the absolute and tyrannical powers of the monarchy. In New Delhi, the constitutional protest was against the failure to enforce law. 

The imperial Lutyens bungalows of the rulers resembled the impregnable castles of the French nobility, which scorned the protesters in the same way as the Congress–UPA Government looked contemptuously upon the protesters and dubbed the protest as acts of vandals. As thousands marched to Jantar Mantar and India Gate to protest, it perhaps recreated the scenes of droves of plebeians marching to capture the Bastille Prison that triggered the French Revolution when Bastille was captured on 14 July 1789 - the day commemorated as French National Day.

In New Delhi, Congress-UPA used the police to break the peaceful and Constitutional protest in the same way the French guards fired upon the unarmed protestors surrounding Bastille. If the Bastille storming ushered freedom from tyranny and justice, the brutal gang rape of Nirbhaya fanned a wave of anger against the lack of rule of law and against the reign of terror of the lumpens who thumbed at the law with impunity while the rulers enjoy the security of dozens of citizen-financed guards. It created an awareness of citizen’s constitutional right to protest.

There is a striking similarly between the storming of Bastille in July 1789 and the march to India Gate. As those in France were incarcerated in Bastille for protesting against the rulers, those in New Delhi were tear gassed for expressing their constitutional right to protest peacefully in a public place, against a Government that has abdicated from its Constitutional responsibilities.

Moral Bankruptcy of the Ruling Coalition 

The protest also had other facets. It was a protest of youth and students against corruption and mis-governance that virtually condones lawlessness. It had its parallel to Beijing’s Tiananmen Square protest in April 1989, by University students fighting against corruption and demanding freedom and democracy. If the Tiananmen protest was in honour of the late Hu Yaobang, the  General Secretary China’s Communist Party, sacked for his Peristrioka and Glastnost and support of the pro-democracy protest which started in December 1986, the New Delhi protest was in honour Nirbhaya, the gang rape victim, whose brutal death at the hands of fiendish rapists sparked a Tsunami of protest against an indifferent leadership which locked itself in its government  fortresses.

The New Delhi protest also exposed the moral bankruptcy of the Congress-UPA leadership who was afraid of its own show and turned a Nelson’s eye to protest that almost looked like the Nav Nirman student protest in Gujarat in early 1970s and was a precursor to the historic Jayaprkash Narayan movement against corruption. Even the Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit beat a hasty retreat after a delayed visit. To add insult to injury, the Home Minister Shinde commented that if he were obliged to meet all protestors, tomorrow even the Maoists would come to Delhi and expect the same. If the Home Minister did not have the courage to meet peaceful protestors would he even dare to meet the ruthless and armed Maoist notwithstanding the security curtain wrapped around him and his ilk! Was  this not the same Home Minister who was non pulsed and pleaded helplessness when the Pak Home Minister on his January 2013 visit to India insulted Kargil martyr Captain Saurabh  Kalia, and defended the LeT boss Hafeez Sayeed? If the popular outrage in Delhi frightened the Congress UPA leaders and Minister from meeting peaceful protestors, what protection can an aam admi expect?

The protest proved that the elected representatives are only concerned about their own security while the citizens are left to fend for themselves. It showed the disconnect between the rulers and the citizens. Dynastic politics has come to be synonymous with absolute monarchy that is not in sync with republicanism and democracy. Will the protest detoxify corruption? UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi is billed as the 10 top powerful leaders. What use is that ‘power’ if it provides no courage to meet peaceful protestors? Today that power has become a self-serving instrument and political snobbery has assumed sickening proportion.

The protest however has a larger message. The political process is in a state of convulsion. It is a crucial phase of transition for Indian democracy where political parties are groping in the dark for answers. The frauds, kickbacks and corruption has crippled the Congress-UPA Government. If the BJP happens to return to power because of the decline of the Congress, it will be, unfortunately, not because it is a party with a difference, but because the Congress-UPA Government is drunk with power.

NITIN G. RAUT is an advocate by profession and a member of the Editorial Board of Freedom First. Email:





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