New Delhi: Jagjeet Kaur, a 30-year-old rape victim from Punjab, was frustrated after running from pillar to post for two years seeking justice. Finally, she landed in Delhi, beginning her hunger strike at Jantar Mantar, the tourist landmark in the centre of Delhi that has been the month-long epicenter of the protests against the Delhi gang-rape that she says inspired her to fight on.
"I saw on TV how hundreds of people were gathering here demanding justice for the rape victim. Some of them were on hunger strike too. The determination of the protesters inspired me to come here," Jagjeet Kaur, who began her hunger strike Monday, told IANS.
"This is the appropriate place for me to raise my voice against rape," added Jagjeet Kaur who sat on a mattress covered in blankets in the middle of the road next to a makeshift memorial consisting of flowers, candles and placards erected for the 23-year-old woman who was brutally raped by six males on a moving bus on Dec 16.
According to Jagjeet Kaur, who works for an NGO in Ludhiana, she was raped by a senior police officer in 2010.
Like her, there were many victims as well as their relatives who came from far and wide to seek justice and they all thronged to Jantar Mantar, an 18th century observatory that abuts Connaught Place, the business and shopping hub of New Delhi.
Since the Dec 16 incident, hundreds and, on occasions, thousands of people, young and old, came to Jantar Mantar.
All of them are united in their fight to get justice for women. Most of them want death for the six males who raped and then threw the physiotherapist trainee out of a moving bus on a cold December night along with her friend, bleeding and without clothes. The woman died of her injuries 18 days later in a Singapore hospital.
A month after the incident that shook the collective conscience of a nation, the protest site continues to see gatherings of people who have come together with their demand for safety of women. Surprisingly, it is for the first time that an agitation without any leadership has sustained itself for so long at the venue - or, for that matter, at any venue in the country.
Prior to this, activist Anna Hazare's anti-corruption agitation had managed to attract crowds for several days.
"No political party has paid us to come here; neither are we here because a civil activist made an emotional appeal. It is our anger and frustration with the system and the hope to see a safer tomorrow for our sisters and daughters that we are here," Saleem Parvez, 55, who has often been coming to Jantar Mantar, told IANS.
Crowds consisting mainly of students and social workers usually gather at the site every morning with placards and banners and sit till dusk, braving the winter chill. The numbers swell on weekends.
Vowing to "fight till the end," many protesters claimed that they would agitate at the site till their demands are met.
"I won't lie, the crowds are thinning every week but we are still determined and the time till even one of us is protesting here, the movement will be alive," said Abhishek Singh, 24, who claimed that he had been coming to Jantar Mantar daily since Dec 18, 2012.
"We will not let her death be in vain. We hope we will see changes in the laws that will make the country a better place for our daughters to live," said Kishan Datt, 70, a retired government official, who has been regularly coming to the venue for some time now.