On the night of December 16, already uncomfortably cold in some parts of the country, as India's cities slowly drifted to sleep, several women – students, activists, and, well, women – were out on the streets, riding buses and trains to observe a night of reclaiming the streets.
Why December 16? Who can forget what happened on the night of 2012 in New Delhi?
Under the banner of Pinjra Tod meaning, literally, “break the cage”, women – and a few men – got on to buses and other forms of public transport across their respective cities, asserting the right of women to be safe in public spaces. Unlike the victim that night of December 16, who was not.
Named “Bus Teri Meri, Chal Saheli: 16th Ki Raat”, the initiative saw strong participation in as many as eight cities, including Kolkata, Bangalore, Patiala and Pune, besides Delhi.
The video above is a collection of pictures from the poster campaign which took place before the bus ride began, and clips of what followed in a night replete with music, slogans and calls to women to come out on the streets.
“Instead of relying on the safety of private cars and homes, there needs to be public transport that is safe and accessible to women because it is also what the larger section of the society uses,” Devangana Kalita, a member of the group told Scroll. “A PCR van cannot be present everywhere, so it will have to be more people more women out and about. It will have to be a collective struggle to achieve this.”
The social-media-led movement, which started with calling for more equitable hostel rules for women in Indian institutions, has quickly transformed itself into a space for women to engage and call for equal rights in other spheres too. Their male supporters too were present on Wednesday night as women in the national capital visited popular areas like Chandni Chowk and spoke to people about their restricted freedom in accessing public spaces alone or at odd hours.
With their slogan of “Tod do taale, zamana kya karega?” (Demolish the locks, what can society do?), Pinjra Tod seems to have at least started what is going to be a long-drawn-out process of making public spaces accessible and safe for women.