(The story was originally published on 5 October 2017 and has been reposted from The Quint’s archives in light of the National Green Tribunal’s direction to the NDMC to shift the protesters, agitators and the people holding dharna (sit-in) from Jantar Mantar to an alternative site at the Ramleela Grounds in Ajmeri Gate 'forthwith'.)
“The country went ballistic when Geeta, a deaf and mute girl from Pakistan, had accidentally entered India. The Government wanted to support her, ministers were itching to meet her and actors were vying for a photo-op with her. What about people like us?” asks Jagbir Kaur, a rape victim, angrily.
“A bunch of hypocrites is all that we are,” she reiterates. Kaur is a national-level Volleyball player from Ludhiana. She now lives out of a ramshackle tent at Jantar Mantar with her beleaguered uncle, in protest. She claims that she was raped and beaten up by a “very senior Punjab Police officer” in 2010. The officer was so senior that she was not allowed to file an FIR against him.
But why Jantar Mantar, and not a traditional, more rational approach to obtaining justice?
I was raped in 2010 and after running from pillar to post, I lost any hope for justice from the judiciary.
When the country took to the streets to protest against the gangrape of a medical student in a moving bus, Kaur decided to stage her protest at Jantar Mantar too.
She ditched her family life for a life of relentless strife.
Three years since, she sees no respite in sight.
Every morning, Jantar Mantar comes to life with a cacophony of competing voices on loudspeakers — voices of protesters laced with anger and agony.
There are about half a dozen scheduled protests (dharnas with police permission) and many more unscheduled protests. On an average, there are 15 different groups sitting on dharnas with an array of demands — each more painful than the other.
Unfortunately, such protests land on deaf ears, which ironically, the protesters know. Yet, their disillusionment with the judiciary has left them with no other option.
However, not every ‘demonstrator’ at Jantar Mantar has protest on the top of his or her mind.
An agriculture scientist, for instance, who claims to have penned NREGA, suggests that sitting on a dharna endows him with supernatural powers including that of controlling the Chennai floods.
Jagbir Kaur’s three-year protest exposes the limitations of Jantar Mantar as a site to seek redemption or ‘justice’. What then inspires the protesters to continue their struggle without a ray of hope? Perhaps there’s a thinning line between passion, thirst for justice and insanity?