I Went To A Protest For The First Time And This Is What I’ve Learned
On January 6th, a protest was held in Kolkata to express solidarity with the students of JNU and condemn the violence that happened on the university campus recently. Hundreds of people, most of them students, walked and cried out slogans. Each protester raised their voice against state-sponsored violence, NRC-CAA and expressed their dissatisfaction against the government. Out of them, I was one.
First Time Protester
I’ve never attended a protest before. I’m fairly outspoken on social media on various issues. However, I have never walked on the streets for a cause that I believe in. Today, that changed. For the first time, I was a protester. I was one in a sea of hundreds, marching ahead and shouting out my cause. What this experience did was change the way I looked at things, my perception.
Change Felt Believable
Being a cynic, socio-political issues in the world feel too large to me. So, I often tend to think that we, as individuals, are too small to bring about any real systematic changes. However, that evening I felt differently. When so many voices around you boom with a cry for freedom, you feel like change is possible. A protestor next to me screamed her voice hoarse, all for what she believed in. Another held the flag of India and as I watched him wave it against the breeze, I felt hopeful. The voice of dissent, especially young dissent, cannot be suppressed so easily.
For the first time, I was a protester. I was one in a sea of hundreds, marching ahead and shouting out my cause. What this experience did was change the way I looked at things, my perceptions.
In The End, I Belonged
When the protest started, it was uncomfortable. As a first time protester, I felt a bit out of place. The words that everyone else was screaming so easily, felt foreign in my mouth. I didn’t feel like I was supposed to be there. But that feeling didn’t last very long. When you’re out there, with everyone else, you realize this fight is yours too. You begin to mouth the words at first, and before you know it, you’re yelling them too. The rage was within you all along, and now you can express it. You realize that this huge, heterogenous mass is here for the same reason you are and that you belong.
Of course, I felt vulnerable. So much of my activism has been passive so far. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, being there in flesh as it all pans out in front of you makes everything feel so much more real. I confronted my own privileges while walking, and how this was the least I could do. There are so many in this country affected directly by everything that is happening, young students being thrashed, and to express my solidarity as a protester is a minimum. It definitely feels cathartic to do something, to do the right thing. The chants reverberate in my mind even as I write this.
When so many voices around you boom with the cry of “Azaadi“, you feel like change is possible.
When we passed a hospital, the crowd turned silent. The slogans stopped and everyone raised their phones in the air, with torches on. Later on, the huge crowd moved aside to let an ambulance pass. It is these little things, these moments that make you realize that you’re part of something bigger. While the world’s issues may still seem humongous to me, I’ve realized tonight that the only way forward is to believe in the voice of the common citizen and to keep marching forward.
Prapti is an intern at SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.