Urbanizing India

Contestations and citizenship in Indian cities

Authored by: Romola Sanyal

Routledge Handbook of Global Citizenship Studies

Print publication date:  June  2014
Online publication date:  June  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415519724
eBook ISBN: 9780203102015
Adobe ISBN: 9781136237966


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On December 16, 2012, a 23-year-old girl was brutally gang-raped by a group of six men on a moving bus before being thrown out of it along with her friend who was also stripped and badly beaten. The girl lived for less than three weeks before she finally succumbed to her injuries at a hospital in Singapore, where she had been sent by the Indian government. This was not the first case of gang rape in India or, indeed, in the capital. Nor was it the first where a woman was brutalized and subsequently died from her injuries. Yet, something about the particular case touched a nerve among the citizenry. Thousands of people came out onto the streets of Delhi in a series of protests both peaceful and violent against the government and its apathy and inability to provide security and dignity for women, while sex crimes and sexual discrimination continued to rise in the country. While many of the protests focused on the safety of women in the public spaces of the city, the incident also raised important questions about the rights of women across caste and regional divides in contemporary India, and the meaning and articulation of citizenship against an increasingly securitized state, and a state that has predominantly engaged in a patriarchal relationship with its membership. Now, the citizenry were demanding increased accountability and rearticulation of the idea of citizenship. 1 The streets of Delhi thus became a site of reinscribing citizenship on a national scale, and for forging new ideas of urban citizenship and rights to the city. The incident thus provoked a brief but profound moment of soul-searching in which people considered the many ways in which violence, and specifically gender violence, had become normalized in India. The city became the crucible in which broader questions of citizenship throughout the country were formed. These questions probed the layers of gender, class, caste, religion, and ethnicity and how they come together to form multiple forms of marginalization.

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