Indian protesters: I salute you

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We laid to rest the embodiment of a powerful soul last week. Someone who had the overwhelming courage to not only think the seemingly impossible, but believe in it enough to defy his opponents and make it true.

As ardent admirers of the likes of Nelson Mandela, we may raise statues and lay flowers, but these are feeble tributes if we do not practice what he painstakingly preached. Do we forever wait for the next leader and remain as followers all our lives? Or do we follow their lead?

There have been uprisings and calls for change all around the world. India, a nation usually seen as humble and gentle, is witnessing a slow unfolding of its deeply rooted culture, because its people are demanding its openness to change.

After 16th December 2012, when a student was brutally gang-raped and subsequently killed on a moving bus in Delhi, it’s not just the face of India that changed. Indians showed they had the stoutheartedness to take to the streets and outpour their pent-up anger at an inherently unjust justice system that did little or nothing for the protection of its women.

As a result, the infamous gang rape incident was the only filed rape case out of 706 in Delhi last year that resulted in a conviction. Before this incident, injustice prevailed.

While there is no doubt about the tragedy of the event, there is some solace in the fact that a mass outcry spurred a change that may not have happened otherwise. And for the first time, politicians are competing on safety policies for women ahead of the country’s general election next year.

And Indians rise again. This time in response to Section 377 – a 153-year-old colonial-era law that bans “unnatural” gay sex, punishable by a 10-year prison sentence. A ruling that seeks to control and criminalise a choice of intimacy which doesn’t sit well with a handful of squirming homophobes.

Protests, planned kiss-ins, and a ‘gay for a day’ social media trend are all raising hands in the face of it, loudly proclaiming that they do not accept. And now, homosexuality in a traditionally conservative country is gaining more global attention than ever before.

It seems the bigger the injustice, the larger the masses and the louder the outcry. There’s still a frightfully long way to go but, Indian protesters, a new age has dawned and I salute every last one of you. You don’t just think it’s wrong. You shout it from the rooftops for the whole world to hear and when light glares on wrongdoing, it scampers like insects hiding in the dark.

Leaders come and go, as do their followers. But truth remains; it’s a vision of liberation that urges leaders to act and drives generations of their followers to lead.

In the words of the great man himself: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Rest in peace, Madiba, while the world awakes from the sleep that you stirred.

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