The lanes of the Jantar Mantar have now fallen silent. Has the gulf between the authorities and the people widened?
My first visit to the Jantar Mantar – an 18th century scientific monument in the heart of New Delhi – was exactly 20 years ago while covering a protest organised by farmers.
From Anna Hazare to the Jawaharlal Nehru University students, from Tamil Nadu farmers to concerned residents of the city – Jantar Mantar has seen protests of all kind. While covering these protests, one question has never left my mind – Is anyone listening?
Close proximity to the parliament and the presence of a police station nearby made Jantar Mantar a perfect place for protests for nearly 25 years. It has been the site of dissent. Visit the monument at any time of the year and you’ll see people from far off places living in makeshift tents in hope that the government pays heed to their problems. The place has also seen violent protests. A few years ago, a Tibetan in exile self-immolated in front of press photographers and the police. Gay rights activists often meet and protest at the Jantar Mantar.
The ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal on protests at the Jantar Mantar has not gone down well with social activists and environmentalists, who have decried the move as an attempt to curb protests and dissent. The ban has pushed voices and dissent to an open space in old Delhi – Ramleela Maidan. The lanes of Jantar Mantar have now become quiet. Have distances between the authorities and the voice of the people further widened?
All photos by Shome Basu