Armed with a maroon backpack and a bottle of water, K Siddappa reached Delhi after a 48-hour train journey to “March for Democracy”, along with hundreds Thursday afternoon. The 60-year-old tailor from Ballari district in Karnataka, was at Jantar Mantar to demand justice for journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead exactly a month ago outside her house in Bengaluru.
About 200 protestors travelled from Karnataka to participate in the march. “Many of us are staying at Gurdwara Bangla Sahib… We are here for Gauri. She would travel all over Karnataka when we would protest and today I am here for her,” he said.
Manju, 19, and his two friends from Chitradurga in Karnataka; as well as 44-year-old Anjaineyya with 50 more from Raichur. “Gauri was the mother of all movements in Karnataka. The bullets have hit our hearts. We are in Delhi because this is the Centre and we want our voices heard… Gauri is a symbol, this march is against the Right-wing forces,” said Manju, who too is staying at the gurdwara.
Activists Teesta Setalvad, Harsh Mander, student leader Umar Khalid and lawyer Prashant Bhushan took part in the protest. “We may not know who killed Gauri for now but we do know who are the people celebrating her death… and these are the people the PM follows on social media,” Bhushan said.
As protesters chanted “Gauri Lankesh zindabad!” and drumbeats reverberated in the air, the march became a point of convergence for activists, students, lawyers, labour unions and artists. “As an artist, I feel stifled. I want to paint a cow on my canvas but the political climate is changing. I am here to resist that,” said painter Sajeev Visweswaran, 37, who has come from Kerala.
At a distance stood Shivam, a Mumbai-based lawyer and theatre director, with a poster that read “Fall of Fascism is must for the survival of Queerness”. “The queer community has to stand with marginalised communities. I represent that… the oppressor is the same and so are the means of oppression, after all,” he said.
In the crowd was 55-year-old Sushir Shastri, who travelled from Jind, Haryana, along with neighbours and friends to participate in the march.
“The ruling party doesn’t respect dissent; they care less about development and more about pseudo-nationalism. Even in Jind, there is a lot of problem in the name of cow protection… so many of us have come to Delhi in trains from Gohana, Sonipat and Jind,” said Shastri, who runs a printing press.
Present in solidarity at Jantar Mantar were 100-plus members of Indian Federation of Trade Union (IFTU). “Every time democracy is attacked, the first to be affected are our workers. Historically, the working class stands in the frontline against fascism…,” said Dr Aparna, president, IFTU.