Sunday, April 4, 2010

Jantar Mantar back to its ethereal self

Jantar Mantar is not happy. When I visited, it told me there is nobody to talk to because the police removed all the protesters, thanks to Commonwealth Games. The astronomical observatory, built by the king of Jaipur in 18th century, always saw a deluge of protesters all the time. Many of them had made it their permanent residence.

"Lekin ab sab saaf kar diya hai. Ab aap logon ko koi takleef nahi hogi (Now we have cleared the place of protesters. No more trouble now),” said a beaming policeman. And the shopkeepers are happy. "Our business was on decline as none of the visitors came to our stalls/eateries. They feared that the protesters, living here permanently, would rob them." They say the move was inevitable because “Jantar Mantar is very near to the Games office”.

On March 17, at 4 pm, the police came with some trucks, sealed all the exits, started grabbing the protesters and stuffed them in the trucks along with their belongings. By 9 pm, there was no protester at Jantar Mantar. "It just took them 5 hours to clear years of mess," said an eatery owner.

While the authorities and business establishments are celebrating the clean up operation, the protesters are devastated. One or two families/groups of them, who have nowhere to go, sit there quietly staring at torn posters and broken tents. They have nothing to say.

Some protesters may not have been genuine, but others sat there for a reason. Their demands were reasonable and they wanted the government to listen to them. But now, no more camping is allowed at the site. And all the protesters can do is wait.

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