A protest was organised at Azad Maidan on Friday to condemn the rape of eight-year-old girl in Kashmir’s Kathua and another 17-year-old in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao. Over 100 people associated with students, Dalits and LGBT organisations attended the protest, after a message on the gathering spread on Thursday night.
During the gathering, Prakash Reddy of the Communist Party of India said that the protest erupted spontaneously. “People have been protesting all over the country but here. We knew that we had to do it soon,” he said. “I couldn’t react for an entire day when I read about the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua,” he added.
Referring to the rape of the teenaged girl in Unnao allegedly by BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar last year and her father’s death in police custody this week, Jyoti Badekar of the Janta Dal (Secular), said, “If we don’t do something now and don’t put pressure on the government, then nothing will happen. The accused have not even been arrested. The most horrible thing is that people are marching to defend the rapists.”
Ritu Diwan of the Indian Association of Women’s Studies said, “If the state is violating our rights, what can be done about that? What can be done when your protector is your destroyer?” Actress Priya Malik, who was also at the protest, urged the need to educate boys. “The protest should be more than hashtags and selfies. Boys must be taught how to respect women rather than simply telling them to not rape them,” she said.
Lawyer Abha Singh stressed that crimes should not be politicised due to vested interests. The protesters also raised slogans condemning the central government, while others brought printed posters decrying crimes committed against women in spite of the country having several prominent women ministers.
The group had planned to hold a candlelight march at the Gateway of India on Friday evening, but later it was called off as it had failed to secure police permission.