Umang Aggarwal,TNN | May 27, 2014, 12.00 AM IST

Youth ‘freezes’ for women’s safety, but Delhi doesn’t get it?
Youth ‘freezes’ for women’s safety, but Delhi doesn’t get it?
It’s been almost a year and a half since the December 16, 2012 gang-rape, and there’s been no dearth of agitation and public airing of anger against lack of safety for women in the city since then, including demonstrations and protests of various kinds, ranging from concerts and roadshows to marches and flash mobs. 

A students-initiated campaign called ‘Jo Mera Hai Wo Mera Hai (My body. My rights.)’, organized a series of ‘freeze mob’ displays in Connaught Place on Saturday. Carrying placards with messages like ‘Touching inappropriately – one to five years of imprisonment and fine’ and ‘Don’t change your profile picture, change yourself’, the group went around the inner circle of CP and paused to ‘perform’ – stand ‘frozen’ in a particular stance – at the busiest points, including Palika Bazaar and Janpath market.

Working men and women as well as students had volunteered to be a part of the ‘freeze’. Explaining the difference between a flash mob and the freeze mob, Smriti Singhal, co-founder, The Education Tree, which organized the freeze, said, “A flash mob, as the name suggests, has people wearing jazzy clothes, dancing or doing something else loud enough to attract attention. A freeze mob, on the other hand, has people displaying important messages to the sound of drumbeats with no physical movement per se during the performance. The difference is that in a flash mob, there’s risk of the message getting lost, as people might just enjoy the singing and the dancing and leave. But in a freeze mob, the entire focus is on the message.”
Delhi doesn’t know how to react to a freeze mob?

On Saturday, while some of the passersby in CP stopped to watch the group perform, there were others who barely noticed it and walked through the middle of the freeze, eating their burgers. “I fail to understand these people. Even if you are not moved by one of the most important debates in the city, how can you insult it? This is not how you react to a freeze mob,” said Anshumi Bishen, one of the spectators. “I have always felt that Delhi isn’t subtle. They need something loud and in-your-face to be able to even notice it. While I think it is a great attempt, I also think that most Delhiites need something flashier,” said Zeeshan Datta, one of the spectators. “I think people in Delhi are more familiar with the concept of a flash mob. A freeze mob, in contrast, is less dramatic. But for an issue like the Nirbhaya gang-rape, I think the sombre tone is only appropriate,” said Manya Mehrotra, a spectator.

The anger mustn’t die
Elaborating on the idea behind the campaign, Kunal, founder, The Education Tree, said, “After Nirbhaya’s death, everybody was focusing on the problem; we thought, let’s come up with a solution. The posters we have used carry important messages that we all already know, but neglect to implement. The anger against the gang-rape was widespread, the sensitization was phenomenal, and we thought it shouldn’t be forgotten.” “We have organized more than 1,000 freeze mobs at colleges, railway stations, at Dilli Haat, outside schools, etc. At Dilli Haat, a lady almost burst into tears because she could relate to what were saying. Sometimes, even foreigners and random boys and girls would come and volunteer. But then, yes, there are people who just ignore the mob, and we don’t worry about them because we can’t change somebody unless they want to change,” said Smriti.

“I have always known that an attempt at sexual assault and sexual assault are both punishable offences, but I did not have a clue that people could be sent to jail for touching someone inappropriately too. Come to think of it, I could have sent at least five people to jail by now,” said Tarana Varma, a spectator. “I know that this is for women’s safety, but I can also see how these laws can be easily misused. I am no legal expert, but if there’s no time limit on when a woman can file an FIR, I guess it can also make it easy for women to file fake rape cases,” added Udiksha Batra, who was accompanying Tarana.

I feel like a hero
Women who had volunteered for the campaign shared their experiences with us. “Initially, I used to hesitate to perform in front of a crowd because I thought people would stare at me. But now I feel confident. Talking about women’s safety like this, I feel like a hero,” said Kriti Singhal, a participant. “I am a school teacher, so I often have to travel alone. Even when I go shopping, sometimes I am all by myself. There have been times when I’ve yelled at men in the Metro or in the street for touching me or even my friends ‘casually’. I feel it’s important to tell them that they can’t get away with it. And now with this project, I can spread the same message to a wider audience and on a bigger platform,” said Ridhi Bajaj, a teacher at The Heritage School. “Initially, I used to wonder if people will react to this at all. But now I can see that people are amazed watching women hold such bold posters,” added Ishani Sapra, a freelance designer.

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