THE UNKNOWN CITIZEN
9:15 pm, 16th December, 2012:
I made a photograph of my dear friend S in a nearly empty bus. We were on our way to a colleague’s flat for a get together. Around the same time, not far from where we were, a 23 year old paramedic student was being brutally assaulted in a nearly empty bus, just like ours. Her friend was also not spared.
The next day I woke up to the news of her ordeal and the presence of that photograph. This essay is an account of what followed. I too took to the streets, like the many young women and men of this city, in a bid to get rid of our collective helplessness. We wanted to reclaim a city that we had lost to our apathy and indifference.
Thousands of us occupied Rajpath, the most powerful corridor in our country. Tear gas shells were fired and water cannons were employed to disperse us, to scare us. Many were heartlessly beaten by the police forces. Our only fault was that we stood in solidarity with that unknown citizen who was brutally gang raped and left to die.
As we bore the brunt of police action, we did not forget to help each other. We shouldered those who were injured. We tried to protect each other by forming human chains. We shared water and biscuits; we shared stories & memories. We held our ground for we knew we were bound to each other by compassion. Slowly but steadily that movement found its way in every neighbourhood, every alleyway of Delhi. Similar protests were triggered across the country.
Ordinary citizens, faceless citizens, unknown citizens came out onto the streets – they were not called upon by a political or a religious outfit – they came out on their own to occupy a space that rightfully belonged to them, to confront their passiveness and of those around them.
These photographs give you an insider’s perspective – I am not documenting this movement as a photo journalist/documentary photographer but as a protestor who spent his Christmas & his New Year out on the streets raising his voice for justice, equality and freedom.
Through this essay I wish to tell stories of friendship and courage that have gone undocumented. Through it I strive to bring forth the little details that make all the difference; it is in them that the promise of hope rests.