“We women know what we want. It is the men who should be here”

There were fabulous speeches, dance and art on the day. But but those in power seem to think - women can only be on the fringes, not occupy the roads

One billion rising, it is a very exhilarating and exciting thought. I had to be there and I wanted my daughter to be there. Although she’s too young to understand its significance.

On 14th February, I decided I should take my daughter’s babysitter also along. Selvi is very fiesty, she minces no words when it comes to bullshit. And that is pretty much what made me pick her to take care of my child.

When we got there the mood was all set. The women were ready to strike, rise and dance.

They painted, they danced, they sang. Pic: Anu Gummaraju.

Selvi, initially thought that she was there to babysit. I had to explain to her she was there to be part of the rising. She was convinced I was nuts. But she got into the mood quickly.

There were speeches from some fabulous women who had fought against atrocities that cut across caste and religion. Selvi understood very little, since the speeches were in Kannada and her understanding of the language is pretty rudimentary. But she is smart, she later asked me ‘if it was about men and women having equal right?’

At the event itself, there were disparate bunch of people. I found the usual suspects – read activists, artists and the curious, mostly what aam junta refers to as ‘ngo types.’

The mood was more picnic like. There were little groups of women and some men with musical instruments, who were dancing. There were artists spread across the lawn and painting. There were a bunch young men and women from a dance school, who were doing some very cool dance moves. On any other day, they would have been hauled up for indecent behaviour in a public place. That day they got applause.

There were young school girls, mostly shepherded by parents and teachers, some on their own. Just being out there, a space that is otherwise considered forbidden was exhilarating for them. Very few of them understood the significance of it. They did add to the numbers.

One Billion Rising event at Cubbon Park. Pic: Padmalatha Ravi

But all the rising was only happening on one side of the road leading to Cubbon Park, near Manjula Mantapa. The rising women and men couldn’t come in the way of traffic.

The police constantly kept pushing those gathered to a side. This despite permissions. A lot of the times the young girls were verbally intimidated into giving way to traffic. What is with the tone adopted by those in power?

The Vice President was in town, your rising can wait — was the message. As one participant remarked, the women can only be on the fringes, not occupy the roads, because god forbid, if the men can’t get to offices on time.

The media was doing its own dance. One reporter from a private television channel was asking hundreds of women to move to another location because, the light was bad in the new location. He even enlisted a police constable to move the women.

On the lawns of Cubbon Park, security guards were intimidating a group of women who had traveled all the way from Karwar to be a part of this. His argument was these Siddhi women with their colourful outfits and singing were attracting too many people. And those people were trampling on his precious saplings. The guard did not want to tell the English speaking audience to get off the lawn, instead chose to threaten the Siddhi women. Even a little power, goes a long way in our democracy.

Despite the police, we danced, we rejoiced and heard each others’ stories.

On the way back, Selvi said "I have done this back in my village, a while ago. We went in a procession, heard speeches and danced on the streets. But it was all women." Another young woman said, "We women know what we want. It is the men who should be here."

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