Little did MLA Abhijit Mukherjee imagine that such an outcry will follow his opinion about how the recent protests against rape in Delhi were just another 'Pink revolution' with 'dented, painted ladies wanting two minute of fame'. Apart from lending himself to much hilarity across social media websites (most popular amongst which is a video of him in cahoots with Arnab Goaswami), he has also managed to, unwittingly, give direction to a new brand of protests that want to address the root cause – the very mentality that governs this bias against women.
The beginning of the New Year saw a series of 'Dent and Paint Parades' across India's metros. In Delhi, journalists Gunjeet Sra, Chitra Subramanyam, and Ruchi Sharma initiated a discussion and silent march in Deer Park, Hauz Khas Village. "I'd been following the protests on TV and websites and refrained from being part of something that was looking for shortcuts by blaming the government and demanding capital punishment. But then this parliamentarian pops up and makes these sexist remarks – it just made me wonder what is wrong with this country?" says Sra.
Armed with posters that screamed 'Dent Patriarchy, Paint a New Future' and 'Dented, Painted, Undaunted', the motley bunch of people silently marched from Hauz Khas Village to the IIT Gate, in the process avoiding excessive surveillance and security that has barricaded central Delhi. The discussions went on for approximately three hours, and the protestors, including professors, students and other, were joined in by onlookers, uncles taking a stroll through the park and even auto-rickshaw drivers.
"Our main agenda was to fight for the right to exist as we please. And for this to really come about there has to be a change in mindsets and in public opinion. Not a lot of the common men have access to a woman's thoughts – they go back home to their wives and they may or may not discuss issues like this. It is a good sign for us that in reality, people are willing to listen," observes Sra. A lot of the protestors present at the occasion came across as not anti-woman. While one guy said that the issue did not stop with short skirts, another compared Mumbai and Delhi and queried if the former can be open-minded about these things, why can't we. There were some who tried to politicise the issue as well, trying to push the blame around and others who thought rape should be punished like in Saudi Arabia but, as Sra noted then, the change has to start at home.
"I can't say that we've changed mindsets in a couple of hours, but we certainly have given them something to think about. Sensitisation can come through talking about it and laying it open for discussion," says Sra. They now intend to turn this into a regular event, with the next one planned for Dilli Haat in February, followed up with sessions in north, east and west Delhi as well.