“Wow! This seems like heaven. See. There are so many hot girls around,” screamed a guy from the crowd. No, this wasn’t a pub nor a restaurant or any other hang-out zone. It was a midnight march, a march that was held as a wake-up call for the government to take note of; for women to stand up for their rights and for men, not to take women for granted. Students, professors, parents, sex workers, activists, LGBTQ members, journalists, school kids and people from all walks of life participated. While some were enthralled at participating in a march for the first time, some were busy giving bytes to feed the news-hungry TV channels, some holding candles and shouting slogans that did not make sense and some just chose to protest silently.
“Most of them just get carried away not knowing what they utter,” said Usharani, a journalism professor from the University of Hyderabad who was present at the march. Apart from members and activists from women’s rights groups, there were sex workers who were part of the protest. “About 80 members from various districts across Andhra Pradesh have come here,” said Sunita* (name changed), HIV positive patient and a member of Mana Kosam, an NGO that works with HIV/ AIDS patients. When asked why she was at the midnight march, Sunita said: “Naaku telvadu, memu andaramu ochinamu. Maa madam tiskochindi ikkadiki! (I don’t know, we all came. My madam brought us here.” Obviously, Sunita had no clue why she was at the midnight march. Neither did she understand or even make an effort to look at the placard she was holding.
On the other hand, women’s rights activists were all charged up, demanding azaadi from patriarchy and running the show. While all this was happening on one side, about 100 police personnel were deployed to manage the crowd and traffic. “Our lives are like this. We’re supposed to be at any place where there there is a possibility of law and order disruption,” said M. Subba Rayudu, a constable. Of course, he had other reasons to worry about than think of women’s rights at that moment. His enthusiastic colleague, on the other hand, galloped to catch a glimpse of a local television star who was there, not for the cause but for attention. “Hey! She (the TV star) is here. Do you want to catch a glimpse of her or even stand closer to her? Come! Rush!,” said Subba Rayudu’s colleague.
As I looked to my right, a cameraman was taking low-angle shots of women, zooming in on their boobs and butts while they marched. Another was that of a group of intoxicated men, supposedly students, began shouting ridiculous slogans, bringing in the religious, regional sentiments, raking up unnecessary issues in a rather peaceful march. While this was unexpected and uncalled for, because they were in an inebriated state, they were falling on women walking in front of them. I was one among them. All the women who had similar experiences like I did, only feared being groped by this group of men. The irony of the situation was that the women were actually protesting to be fearless but they still feared these men. The cause of the march was thus, lost. What added fuel to the fire were the lewd comments and gestures by passersby who ogled, letched at women protestors and couldn’t control their erect penises.
Though such protests, marches and candle-light vigils bring people together for a cause, they also remind us that it is the mindset makes a perpetrator commit the act and that HAS TO change. Amidst all this, I chose to be a silent protestor, protesting against the perpetrator (from the family) who sexually abused me for four years.
Of course, the march had people who thought it was “fashionable and cool” to protest; it had men who thought it was their best opportunity to eye-rape women or grab their boobs/ass; but it also had those who knew it wouldn’t help bring a change in the mindset, but create some sort of awareness.