It all started at the Mandi House metro station.
A Freedom Parade to parallel the Republic Day parade that had just wrapped up down the road.
That parade had had big guns, this parade had big ideals. The recently released Justice Verma Committee report needed to implemented.
Unfortunately, the Home Ministry website seemed to have 'misplaced' it, which made it difficult for the government or political leaders to take action. So somebody had to point fingers...you know...in the right direction...
(Incidentally, if you're looking for the Justice Verma Committee report, lookey here! It's been found!!)
Of all the protest/ freedom marches I've ever been on, this had the best slogans. The theme of 'Bekhauf Azaadi' (Freedom Without Fear) was extended to:
Azaadi: Night or day, on deserted roads & crowded, at home and at work, with family or strangers etc.
Azaadi from: sexual violence, from the insensitivities of the police & politicians, from the nonsense of Asaram Bapu, Abhijeet Mukherjee, Botsa Satyanarayana and Mohan Bhagwat, from patriarchy, from a broken justice system etc.
Azaadi to: be born, to study, to roam freely, to have aspirations, to marry and (my personal favourite) to not marry.
There were strident calls for 'nyay' or justice for Delhi, Kashmir, Manipur, Gujarat, Chhatisgarh, Haryana etc. For each and every known & unknown victim of sexual violence - male or female, straight or gay or transgendered.
There was absolute clarity on the amount of tolerance for apathy & inaction: Zero.
The crowds were a mixed bag.
From leading activists and Twitter celebs (not in image...what is this? Us Weekly?) to regular Joes and what Chetan Bhagat might call 'The Fours' (I don't know about 'taking them along' CB, they giggle a lot when they chant 'Azaadi!')
Time came to get moving from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar (Delhi's 'Outrage Central'). The crowds promised to be orderly but not everyone was convinced.
They needn't have worried.
There was a strict single file policy when crossing vehicular traffic and an overall policy of not wanting to be pains-in-the-asses.
At Jantar Mantar, we were all asked to sit right down on the road.
There were powerful speeches made - most memorably by Kavita Krishnan, who introduced us to each of the names on our posters, who had yet to recieve justice. Collectively, we acknowledged all the unknown victims of sexual violence (much like the 'Unknown Soldier' at whose memorial, the Indian PM placed a wreath every 26th January).
She briefed us on the salient points of the Justice Verma Committee report and asked all those gathered there to self-reflect and confront the patriarchical mindset, fear & insecurities (why does 'freedom for all' threaten so many of us?) that reside in all of us.
Then she emceed a delightful medal-giving ceremony for the 'Mardaangi Maryada' brigade (Asaram Bapu & co. who had distinguished themselves as the 'Balaadkaar Defence Team') proving that feminism could also be fun.
There were a few more speeches, poetry and singing before people began to disperse.
It had been a peaceful public gathering - peaceful not just for the lack of lathis, water cannons or tear gas, but peaceful in discourse while being forceful in intent. As someone who had observed the steady disintegration of the anti-corruption movement into an anti-government one, I was gratified and extremely proud of this campaign.
Everyone there agreed that getting the people in high places to take the Verma Committee report seriously (or even just put it up on their website) would be a long haul. So there was a call to regroup the next month and the next and the next.
As the crowd slowly peeled off to return home, we passed another dharna. Hardly any women in the group but lots of fervour.
It called for justice.
It called for the 6 Delhi gangrape accused to be hanged (With trial? Without trial?).
It called for us to 'Follow on Facebook to Save our Sisters'.
And one couldn't help but go - Ah, democracy! Happy bloody Republic Day.