Taksim To India Gate: Reclaim Your Democratic Spaces!
By V. Arun Kumar
31 July, 2013
Photo Credit: RT
From Taksim to India Gate, there lies a common story. A story of eroding democratic spaces, a story of people being stopped from speaking truth. While Turkey rose against the ploy by establishment to destroy the Gezi park and silence truth, India still has not woken up against the anti democratic act of Delhi police imposing prohibitory orders around India Gate. Delhi police, since the massive movement against the rapes and for women freedom has imposed prohibitory order around India Gate.
Parks, public monuments and other public spaces have a special importance in the healthy functioning of a democratic country. These places are the vital platforms for interaction between all sections of a society, otherwise which rarely happens. These spaces, apart from allowing interaction among people, provides a platform for activists to inform people about the issues and realities. These spaces help disseminating truths and thus helps in democratic functioning of a country. We know how important had been India Gate (and similarly other public spaces across India) for various small and big movements for social reforms and better democratic functioning. The recent being the massive public protests against the rape and for women freedom. Why the establishment fears people protesting against rape? Does establishment have a soft corner for rape incidences? No doubt the whole Indian establishment is patriarchal, but the issue that haunts it is that it’s real face will be exposed. Establishment wouldn’t had much problem had if the protesters only addressed the issue of rape in Delhi, but it went ahead and questioned the sacrosanct matter of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and massive rapes committed by Indian security forces in North East and Indian administrated Kashmir (IAK). I still remember hundreds of people asking each other “what is AFSPA”, “is it true that army is rapes under AFSPA”. These were the questions which rarely found it’s way among the public in Delhi. But this time it did. And activists on ground did their best to tell truth to people. People who assembled there were also able to interact people from IAK and North East, who gave first account of ground realities.
India Gate played a prominent role in disseminating the information and facts among masses which were for years considered ‘out of bound for public’. Large number of people who were totally unaware of Kunan Poshpora, Shopian, Manorama devi and other gross human rights violations and rapes committed by the “sacrosanct” security forces under the pretext of security. But the massive movement at India Gate paved way for this democratic space to help disseminating the truth by providing a platform for interaction among all sections of the society, of once many people were unaware or didn’t bothered to know.
Far away from India Gate, Gazi Park in Turkey witnessed a mass movement. A movement against destruction of last standing democratic space in Istanbul for it’s inhabitants, where they could meet cutting across the societal divides. Taksim, where Gezi park is situated has a very historical connotation to it. On May 1, 1977 scores of thirty-six students and union leaders were massacred who came to Taksim square, who were assembling at Taksim square to celebrate International Labour Day. Notwithstanding the opposition from social activists, environmentalists and people of Istanbul, the government deciding to demolish Gezi park for building shopping complex. What followed the brutal eviction of few environmentalists at Gezi park was kind of revolution. Millions of people hit the road across Turkey in protest against the authoritarian nature of the regime and police brutality on Gezi protesters. The small movement to save Gezi park turned into a massive movement against the authoritarian nature of the government. I met a friend from Turkey, who told me about a unique thing which she witnessed in these wave of protest. First time in the recent history of Turkey, both Turkish and Kurdish people walking hand in hand. Like AFSPA in India, the Kurdish issue was also considered as a sacrosanct ‘god’ which was never to discussed or question. She told me that she was astonished to see Turkish people trying to protect Kurdish people from the wrath of members of nationalist parties. First time in thirty years people of Turkey understood Kurdish people.
Taksim and India Gate are just two examples of eroding democratic spaces around the world. States are trying to either turn the public spaces into posh area (like in Taksim), where only a elite section can interact or prohibiting people from mingling in these public spaces (like at India Gate). The idea is behind this is simple- don’t allow people from all sections to interact and then no need to fear the truth to come out.
It was the movement that ultimately exposed the truth, but it was the democratic space which gave a platform for such movement. The intention of writing this article is not about writing one for the sake of writing, but it is a call for all progressive organizations and individuals to stand up reclaim the Delhi police’s ( read establishment) arbitrary decision of clamping prohibitory orders around India Gate. Broadly speaking, this call is for all people around the world. It is a call against the attempt to destroy our democratic spaces and silence truth. Reclaim your democratic spaces!
The author is an political activist and a student of Masters in International Relations from South Asian University, New Delhi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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