Performance artist Inder Salim’s message to the government was in his clothes. He turned up wearing a fluffy red heart pinned to his shirtfront and distributed whistles to the marchers. “Think with your heart,” he urged softly, hopeful that his voice would travel far enough. Three names were pinned to the heart — Vemula, Khalid and Kanhaiya.
On a day when thousands raised the volume for the cause of justice, artists did not bother with subtlety.
Rahul Bhattacharya painted his face with black ink — the smear of choice in attacks against intellectuals — and walked the route blowing a pink whistle to the beats of the crowd chant of ‘Halla Bol’.
The other thing he wanted to say was pinned to his T-shirt: “We are Rohiths haunting this Kafkaland”.
From photographer Ram Rehman, filmmaker Anand Patwardhan and theatre directors Lokesh Jain and Deepan Sivaraman to veteran Vivan Sundaram and Raqs Media Collective’s Jeebesh Bagchi, the force of Delhi’s creative circle pulsed through the rally.
A street artist, who is bound by the rules of his genre to remain unseen and unnamed, walked with his face wrapped in foil on which was written in red, “It’s too hot to live”.
It was also a day for unknown names to emerge. Prabhu Dayal, a commercial painter from Patel Nagar, said he chose the walk over work. “Rohith’s murderers are still roaming the street,” he said.
At Ambedkar Bhawan, even before the rally started, Satyendra Satyarthi was the centre of attention. An MTech student from Delhi College of Engineering, Satyarthi was selling T-shirts with the green silhouette of Vemula’s face over his lifespan, 1989-forever.