Delhi gang rape: protests for women’s rights attract politicking instead

December 23, 2012

(The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

The perfect recipe of a bad curry is to do everything right, then add one wrong ingredient, or add the right ingredient in the wrong amount. In this case, the ingredient is the mango, or as they call it in Hindi, “aam.”

I attended a candlelight vigil on Sunday night in Bangalore to stand up for women’s rights in India. The vigil was a peaceful version of the protests that have swept the nation after six men were accused of gang-raping and battering a 23-year-old medical student in New Delhi last Sunday.

A group of people arrived at the vigil in Bangalore’s Freedom Park, saying that they were members of the Aam Aadmi party. (“Aam aadmi,” for people who don’t speak Hindi, means “common man,” with the word for mango, “aam,” taking on its other translation: “ordinary” or “common”.) They urged the crowd of about 150 people, mostly students, to decide for themselves whom they want to support in the future. At another protest against the rape, held at Bangalore’s city hall on Sunday, other people who said they were from the Aam Aadmi party did the same thing.

Amid the calls of “We want safety for woman” and “We want stricter legislation”, emerged the sharp voices saying, “We want PM’s resignation”, or “Let the people decide who they want to vote in the next elections.”

There is a simple message that any party in India should heed: protests and vigils supporting women’s rights and speaking out against a culture that looks upon the rape of women and women’s rights as no big deal are not political conventions. People are not attending them to engage in party politics.

Similar reports have come from Delhi. People who have gathered to urge swift action against the accused and stronger laws against rape and assault have seen their efforts taken over by hooligans and political groups to gain leverage for their ends. In Delhi, this has produced scenes of mob violence and the destruction of public property.
Here’s an excerpt from an article in The Hindu:

The protest saw organisations like the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the BJP, and the newly launched political outfit Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal jumping into the fray, which was strongly questioned by the students who have been leading the protest for the past few days.

“Why are political groups hijacking a students’ movement and hurting the cause? I think it’s a really unfortunate turn in the protest which was peaceful expression of public anger,” said Ritika, a student present at India Gate, while expressing her shock at the fact that groups with ‘vested interests’ who want to “hijack” the movement were resorting to violence.

The Delhi Police in its report to the Union Home Ministry said these interests joined the protesters and were instigating violence.

This is not what people who are protesting against the way women are treated in India want. Why should everything water down to the ineffectiveness of government? I would prefer to withhold commenting on whether it is about the government or not. Now, the problem is figuring out how to effect societal change; it is about how to respect women, regardless of their stature in society, their profession or how they dress.

If anything, the incidents that I witnessed clearly demonstrate the lack of sensitivity and empathy among those who are trying to win power in the country. Voting out the ruling government coalition will not solve the problem unless people in authority see rape as being on the same level of heinousness as murder. This is a lesson that any political parties attending the protests and vigils would do well to learn.

Note: The Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad, known as the ABVP, has never said that it is the student wing of the BJP, as the excerpt from the article in The Hindu says.

(Demonstrators shout slogans as police use water canon to disperse them during a protest in front of the India Gate in New Delhi, Dec. 23, 2012. The Indian government moved on Sunday to stamp out protests that have swelled in New Delhi since the gang rape of a young woman, banning gatherings of more than five people, but still thousands poured into the heart of the capital to vent their anger. Reuters photo: Adnan Abidi)


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

The article is ok, but there is a wrong information on the line ‘… Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the BJP …’. Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad is an independent organization and never been a wing of any political party. FYI ABVP was founded in 1948 and formally registered on 9 July 1949, (source- tiya_Vidyarthi_Parishad) much before creation of BJP and its predecessor Bharatiya Jan Sangh (Established in 1951).

It is my honest request and prayer to the writer that as a true journalist, she should not post wrong information.


Posted by sukarna | Report as abusive

Sukarna, I’ll look into it and correct as required.

Posted by Robert MacMillan | Report as abusive

We have noted that the ABVP disavows a connection to the BJP as its student wing. I would note that this was a quoted excerpt from The Hindu, and that many other Indian news sources write it as such. In this case, we quoted the newspaper excerpt and did not make the assertion ourselves, nor did we suggest that we know the assertion to be true or false.
Best regards,

Posted by Robert MacMillan | Report as abusive

I would like to differ. ABVP is a student wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). BJP derives its ideology from RSS and most of its prominent members including AB Vajpayee(former PM), LK Advani(second in command) and Narendra Modi (perhaps the most popular BJP leader now)are from RSS. So, anyone who knows the ground conditions in India esp North India will safely vouch that it is so.

Coming to the point, I was present there in New Delhi which is the hub and you can say is the epicenter of present protests and was one of those many peaceful protesters before violence was incited by NSUI(congress students union) and ABVP members.ABVP members were seen on top of the car they overturned wearing their trademark orange headbands and when they were trying to destroy public property the peaceful protesters esp. girls fought with them. AAP members were present but thankfully, they never intended to nor ever created any ruckus.

FYI Congress and BJP both have ministers in their cabinet accused of rape. AAP is a newly formed party which gains nothing if the protests are hijacked. So, i guess its even logical as to who were the ones doing this.

The TV footage will confirm presence of ABVP guys. I know for sure you won’t find anything against the AAP guys.

And, i find it a bit amusing that AAP members did that in Bangalore. They have a strong presence in Delhi only ,i guess and a bit in Chennai. I think(and its my personal opinion again) that some goons mislead the author

Posted by Nityanand | Report as abusive

Thanks for the reply. I think the hard part, based on conversations I’ve had with friends and colleagues today, is that there is a generally accepted idea in India that the organizations are linked, but that the ABVP says that it is not true. At that point, one has a conundrum…

Posted by Robert MacMillan | Report as abusive

Yeah, there is.

And,if i may i just want to question the omission of the role of NSUI in turning the protests violent.they had the MAJOR role and am talking Major. If you would ask anyone who was present there, or follow any news channel which gave in depth coverage, the proof of NSUI’s involvement becomes apparent. Moreover, the protesters that Sonia Gandhi met weren’t really protesters.They were NSUI members,or so the general public believes because no one really knows who they were. what we know is that they were not from us.

Funnily, the article completely ignores the involvement of Congress or NSUI, their student wing. And, a good guess would say that these two had the most to benefit from the protests going violent.
I have never really liked politics or am not much inclined towards any political party. But, the truth should prevail. And, from my eyes, one among the crowds of thousands i think this is what happened ,at least in Delhi.

Posted by Nityanand | Report as abusive

May be not in it’s origins but at present they are student wing of BJP. Whenever there are elections in the university, the defeat of ABVP is seen as defeat of BJP.
This is the actual Wikipedia link. May be it will clarify the discrepancy. Read 2nd paragraph under history. tiya_Vidyarthi_Parishad

Posted by Woman21 | Report as abusive

I appreciate it’s all of two months later, time enough to see that no one political party hijacked the uprising to end India’s rape culture. The writer is justified in arguing that the movement would only succeed as far as it began the process of societal change. The Verma report was produced largely sidelined and Indian women and Indian men have returned to the Status Quo Ante. It is still reported that a low caste woman who makes an FIR with the police for any sexual crime against her will be thrashed or whipped by the police. It is still not a criminal offence for a soldier or paramilitary to commit any crime of sexual violence against the women they took oaths to protect if they do so to the women of J&K or the Lost Sister States. Initially P Chidambaram claimed the Government which may or may not be effective did not have the power to force through a more humane law if the Army chose to block it. Now the Law minister claims the Army and Indian Secret Service are more capable jurists than any of the retired Supreme Court Justices or Chief Justice who have all in their reports from Jeevan Reddy to Verma sought either AFSPA repeal or reform. V Moilly the previous Law Minister had also reccomended its repeal when he chaired the second administrative reforms committee report. The writer had insight it is a pity Reuters did not follow up. OBR promised that it would not be a single day and then all would forget. But today it is the Americans who remember and honour Nirbhaya. Many Indians if this comment is published would have to google to jog their memories who she was. As for Reuters I hope when Irom Sharmila Chanu appears for trial on 22 May in Delhi Patiala Court 10AM a representative will be there to see Indian Justice in action. It is not now an offence for an Indian Soldier or Paramilitary to rape kidnap or murder a Indian Citizen in Manipur. But it is an offence for an Indian Citizen to emulate the peaceful non-violent process of Gandhi-ji and this is the offence for which the Indian State has put her on trial. She may be contacted directly at Irom Sharmila Chanu, Human Rights Defender, Security Ward, Jawaharlal Nehru I M S, Porompat, Imphal East, Manipur, 795005 and will be released for one day on or before 12 March 2013 in Imphal, and will be presented again at the Patiala Court Delhi on 22 May 2013.

Posted by DesmondCoutinho | Report as abusive