The ‘Not In My Name’ campaigners held a vigil at Jantar Mantar on Tuesday, 11 July, 2017, 7 p.m. to mourn the killings of Amarnath pilgrims a day earlier. For this gathering arithmetic (numbers) went against the protesters. At any given point of time the number was under one hundred.
There were no slogans, no speeches, a two minute silence in the memory of those who were killed was observed. Placards displaying messages like ‘Hatred Will Not Win #AmarnathYatraKillings #NotInMyName’ were carried by the protesters. Sadness and grief was writ large on their faces. There was a gloomy silence even as the photo-journalists and T.V. camera persons recorded the proceedings. People talked in hushed tones about what lay in store and what would be the future line of action. This gathering took place at one end of the road known as Jantar Mantar lane, near the entrance to the Kerala House.
At the other end of the lane towards the Jantar Mantar monument were two more protests on the same issue. One was by a political outfit, the NPP. There were about 10 to 15 protesters in this rally demanding imposition of Governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir. A Baba wearing red coloured clothes was part of this protest almost leading it. Within minutes several women sitting on different protest dharnas at Jantar Mantar for a long time with individual grievances were seen angrily approaching this rally;these women laid bare the shenanigans of this Baba (accused of atrocities to women) at Jantar Mantar itself. The police stood by, silently. Discerning trouble, this Baba had to flee the rally. Finally Jagjit Kaur, a rape victim from Punjab who has been on protest at Jantar Mantar for over three years demanding justice chased the Baba out of sight away from the Jantar Mantar area.
Another protest was organized by the right wingers (largely believed to be ABVP members) though no formal banner to the effect was carried by them. They were about 100 to 150 in number. The protest started at 6 p.m. with raising of slogans against Pakistan which was denounced; another slogan praised the Indian army; a third slogan indicated that the whole of Kashmir belonged to India; one slogan conveyed their sentiments to the effect that the traitors should be shot dead viz ‘desh ke gaddaron ko, golimarosaalon ko’. I stood there for one hour till this rally was over. But I did not see any sign of grief or sadness on the face of the protesters; their body language, the tone and tenor of the slogans, the anger and the vengeance in the meaning (golimarosaalon ko) was very disturbing and terrifying for me.
I recall tragic developments in 1984 when Mrs. Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards belonging to the Delhi Armed Police. As the Prime Minister’s body lay for public to pay their last respects, the government owned Doordarshan which covered those moments permitted the airing of vengeful slogans like: ‘blood for blood’ (khoonkabadlakhoon). As a trained doctor and an ardent observer of human nature I distinctly remember having seen no grief or sadness one associates with mourning, even then. The slogans which I heard on 11 July, 2017 still reverberate in my mind. I fear that the minorities in India particularly Muslims would be facing a backlash.
When I joined the 7 p.m. protest ‘Not In My Name’, some of the right wing protesters (whose protest was over by then) were passing by at this end of the Jantar Mantar lane. On seeing the ‘Not In My Name’ protesters assembled there they menacingly looked at us and shouted ‘Pakistan ke gaddaron ko’. The police as usual looked the other way.
Dr. P.S. Sahni is a member of PIL Watch Group. Email: email@example.com