The Power and Resistance of Jantar Mantar in India

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The ongoing farmers agitation on the outskirts of Delhi is not a symbol of proletariat against bourgeois rather a sign against institutions including government and electronic media. The farmers are willing to go to Jantar Mantar to hold protests against three laws which they found against the interests of both the farming and farmers. Why do farmers need Jantar Mantar? What identity of Jantar Mantar exists among common citizens? Why do we need a site to do protests? Why did the government refuse Jantar Mantar to the protesters? The spatial identity ever exists in binary sense either functional or obligatory. Functional identity drawn from the glimpses of the history and established as functional space over the period of time while the obligational are remain dormant unless the spatiality forced to represents as contentious due to some other reasons unlike Singhu borders in the Delhi-Haryana border area where farmers stationed more than weeks. Jantar Mantar is a functional space in varied senses including an observatory was constructed by Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur in 1724. The essential purpose of the Jantar Mantar was to accumulate astronomical tables which in turn would help predict the time and movement of the celestial bodies such as the sun, moon and other planets. And, located nearby the Parliament of India wherein peoples are using the pavements to register their protests, whatsoever.

We are living in such a communication era when ‘agenda setting’, ‘propaganda’ and ‘framing’ are inevitable in mundane ways or in other words, the war of misinformation used to diffuse the actual narrative. Media became a phenomenal catalyst in terms of decentralizing their features on social networking sites where people can login and express their views without any technical prejudice. These sites encourage people to share their views through the available applications and by providing a platform for discussion. Over time, these media platforms have become important in forming a consensus over several issues. The fundamental characteristics of these media outlets is the facility to share attitudes, which has made them unique amongst the available media options where people share their views very openly and clearly without any prejudice. How do these media outlets function as an expression of popular thought? How do they shape and reshape the social identity of a space/place in various ways. How do these media outlets inspire an individual to do something for society? How do media help in building a consensus or propagate news to their followers? Why do people share their views freely over these mediums without fear of any repercussions? In 2006, a Bollywood movie Rang De Basanti directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, starring Aamir Khan, showed students protesting at India Gate (a war memorial located in New Delhi) against the government. In the movie, India gate is a symbol, denoting the government’s position, and thus, the protest at India Gate becomes symbolic of protesting against the State’s decision over an issue.

Ever since the success of the film, the India Gate monument has become a popular space for protesters, where ordinary citizens use the space to stage protests against government apathy towards their demands. Over the past few years several candle marches have been organized at India Gate to protest against the government. How do spaces become symbolic representation of a government? Like seen with the film Rang De Basanti, what galvanizes the people’s attitude to make and locate a space where they can protest and register their voice of dissent firmly?

How does the selection of space take place for the purpose of protest? Why is a potential space required? Moreover, while news and other developments about the protests were circulated by audio-visual media, the topic was discussed extensively over social networking sites and visual media (satellite news channels including social media) very intelligently and without forcing the people to come together at a physical location. Instead the protest took place in a fragmented manner. Given this, strategically, media wishes to sustain issues for a prolonged period of time as it increases their popularity and circulation. They even resorted to making the protest lively and engaging through exclusive coverage and by pushing emotional outbreaks from those involved.

During early 2011, another massive gathering of people stood for more than a week at Jantar Mantar, near India Gate, under the leadership of social worker Anna Hazare to fight against corruption and the non-implementation of the provisions made in Jan Lokpal bill.

The issue became contentious between the government, people, and other political parties during this period. The issue still exists, but not with as much fervour as in its initial phase was. During this protest, Jantar Mantar became the space/site for contestation and since then, it has taken a kind of centre stage, where many protests have been held. But the Anna-led protest gave a new identity to this space to raise one’s voice against the government. The participation of the media was inevitable in this protest and some sections even accused the media of aggravating this movement against the government. While Jantar Mantar existed as a space for protest prior to the Anna movement, the media coverage of the movement gave a new lease of life to this space.

The issue became contentious between the government, In December 2012, once again a massive crowd marched towards India Gate to lodge their protest against the government. This protest was organized for the rape victim Nirbhaya, as a show of solidarity towards her suffering and to support her cause. The protesters also demanded stronger laws against rape. Once again, the media, especially social networking sites, played a key role by providing a platform to people to share their common feelings of anguish against the crime. Over a week long agitation, the protesters were forced by the police to register their protest at Jantar Mantar, near India Gate, where entry of people was completely stopped for security reasons. Thus, both India Gate and Jantar Mantar emerged as public spaces where irrespective of their numbers, individuals or groups of people can lodge their

The past experiences of government and administration, of course the main reasons that did not allow the farmers to occupy Jantar Mantar because in the past, how Anna Hazare led IAC successfully  achieved the goal to create a political narrative against the UPA II government.

Dr Shekh Moinuddin is an academician and author of six books.




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