Around an hour before Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted that he will take part in a “silent, peaceful, candlelight vigil at India Gate at midnight” on Friday to protest the Kathua and Unnao rapes, the phones of the party workers had started buzzing, asking them to gather at the Delhi Congress office near ITO. “I got a message from a Congress convener at 8.30 pm that we have to gather at the DPCC office, from where we will leave for India Gate to join Rahul Gandhi,” said Vijay Jatyan, state coordinator of the Delhi Congress.
This is one of the ways the Congress president, who tweeted at 9.39 pm, managed to rally over 1,000 people in hours. “I was surprised as I have never received such a message in the past. Protests organised at such a short notice usually happen during the day, and we get to know at least six hours in advance,” Jatyan said. Many said they did not expect such a turnout. A worker, who did not wish to named, said, “Since workers got messages after 8 pm, and were already at home, they brought their families along.” But it wasn’t just workers at the spot — several others also joined in, having seen messages about the protest on WhatsApp or social media. By 11.30 pm, traffic at Akbar Road had come to a standstill, as thousands marched holding candles.
Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken said, “WhatsApp played an important role in mobilising people. We have several groups at different levels, comprising zonal workers and district workers, where the message was flashed. We will stage more such protests in the coming days.” Sources said the party is also enthused since a recent day-long fast at Rajghat had not received such a response. Workers gathered at 24, Akbar Road were joined by Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Sharmistha Mukherjee and Sanjay Nirupam. As the protesters reached the India Gate circle, police blocked the route towards Amar Jawan Jyoti as they did not have permission. Some headed there anyway, taking the route through the India Gate lawns.
Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi joined the protesters around midnight, leading to intermittent chaos. “People who are here to push can go home,” Priyanka said. The protest concluded at 1 am, after Rahul had addressed the media sitting atop his SUV. “It pains us to see our children being raped and the party in power doing politics over it. We are here to demand justice,” he said.