Harassment and obscenity in times of a people’s movement

New Delhi: Even as support for Gandhian Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption touches monumental heights, there’s been a consequent flipside. A number of people have been complaining of some fringe elements in the movement creating a nuisance — harassing and misbehaving with women, raising vulgar slogans and picking pockets.

Shanta Sharma, a student of Delhi University, said that she was harassed by a group of men returning from a protest site Wednesday evening.

“My friend and I were on our way back to the hostel from Connaught Place… we deboarded the metro at GTB Nagar station and were shocked to hear loud whistles and some nasty comments,” Sharma said.

“When we looked back, it was a group of young men holding flags and wearing t-shirts with ‘We support Anna’ written on them. We really didn’t know how to react… these people have no idea what Anna is fighting for. They have no respect for women and are out there only to have fun,” she said with disgust.

Shikha Singh, a media professional, had a similar tale to narrate.

“The Central Secretariat Metro station was crowded even at 11 p.m. last (Wednesday) night and most of the people had come from the rally at India Gate in support of Anna. All the men entered the women’s coach and started passing obscene comments.”

“I am sure Anna will be very unhappy if he hears about such cheap behaviour on part of his supporters. But the thing is, Anna cannot take the responsibility of all his supporters’ behaviour…and if he doesn’t, then who will,” Singh asked.

Narrating yet another horror tale, Sudhisha Bhola, a young marketing professional, who was stuck in a traffic jam near Jantar Mantar during the rally Wednesday, said: “You could see that most of the youngsters in the crowd were attending the rally just for fun and didn’t even know what the Lokpal bill is.”

“They were passing indecent comments on women stuck in the jam,” she said.

Outside the Tihar Jail, even female journalists were not spared.

“Young, rowdy school kids and others shouting cheap slogans gathered around two female TV reporters and pushed them around. When they tried to get away, the crowd followed them. Finally, we had to intervene to shoo away the crowd, most of whom were minors,” a police officer said.

He added that at least four-five incidents of pick-pocketing were being lodged every day.

Sanjeev Kumar, one of the protestors who went with his wife to support Anna’s movement outside Tihar Jail, came back disgusted.

“I was really disappointed seeing the rowdy crowd…my wife was being jostled around and harassed. There were lewd comments being passed at her… I was really disgusted. We left the scene immediately,” Kumar said.

Raju, a street vendor outside the jail, said: “Yesterday (Wednesday), there must have been around 2,000 people here but today (Thursday) it is only a few hundreds…and that too it was mostly bawdy school children.”

Rajnish Misra, a sociology professor, said: “Whenever there is a mass movement like that of Anna Hazare’s, there is bound to be a few fringe elements who are just mischief makers. They are on a different momentum…it’s more of a herd mentality and it’s not so much of supporting the cause, as just being there for some adrenalin rush.”

“It just ends up spoiling the atmosphere…and alienating chunks of people who may have otherwise wanted to be a part of the movement,” he added.

Aayush Anand, who went to Tihar with his family, decided to return home in just five minutes after hearing the vulgar slogans.

“I had never imagined that we will have to hear such cheap slogans. I felt so embarrassed that I left immediately,” said Anand, a software engineer.

Hazare, 74, had planned to begin his fast for a stronger anti-corruption Lokpal Bill from the J.P. Park in the ITO area Tuesday. However, Delhi Police imposed certain conditions before allowing the protest.

Hazare refused to sign the undertaking, following which the police detained him and his other team members Tuesday. This led to wide-scale protests and rallies in various places across the city.

He was arrested and subsequently released Tuesday evening but refused to leave the jail until allowed to carry on the protest without any conditions. The social activist was finally allowed to hold the protest fast at Ramlila ground for 15 days. By Azera Rahman and Sumit Kumar Singh