New Delhi: More than the routine and tiresome aggregation of the victors and losers of the receded year, it is imperative to identify the public heroes and out the villains of 2012. In every such list, there would be Damini in number 1 position, the heroic rape victim of Delhi, this writer’s 16th December princess, but she has gone beyond us to become immortal, although not before showing up her compatriots, as individuals, sections, classes, interest groups, in true light.

The young: In age terms, they would be peers of Damini, but soul-wise too, they are closest to her, especially the young women. On the morning after Damini’s state-enforced swift and secret cremation, sadness shrouded Jantar Mantar, with little islands of silent women bounded in grief, eyes wet, holding heart-rending placards. The men and the boys have been equal participants in the grief, but it is the women who have been the moving force behind the unending anti-rape agitation. They are angry, they aren’t going to give up without a fight, and they have the entire country behind them. The more cynical expected the young to return to life-as-usual faced with an obdurate, insensitive and venal state, right in the midst of a harsh winter. But they are there, shunning the New Year parties, they have made Jantar Mantar their home, and they are demanding justice for Damini.

The young are the heroes of 2012. They have made the country proud.

The media: In the past, the rulers could divide the media, but not on the Damini issue. Early on, it seemed the government had arm-twisted some news channels to block the protests, but not for long. Conditioned not to become part of the story, journalists have been unable to make that distinction this time, crossing the thin line, becoming pro-protesters, joining in candlelight vigils and marches, venting equal anger at the apathy of the political class as the common citizens, and generally disabling the government from creating schisms and mischief. It has been a humbling experience for the media that the protesters, young and without guile for the most part, have not been courting the channels and the newspapers, who have been compelled to the coverage because of the courage and integrity of the Damini movement.

Aam Admi Party (AAP): It has become a force to reckon with in the Jantar Mantar protests, and Arvind Kejriwal was the only member of the political class to have the mettle to join the anti-rape stir. AAP’s advisor, Yogendra Yadav, the psephologist, was a picture of poise, dignity and humility engaging with the protestors to chart the way forward. Whilst Left front organizations were in the lead in the protests, their volunteers admitted to AAP’s quite considerable mobilization powers, which should be bad news to Shiela Dixit’s Congress party and the Bharatiya Janata Party. AAP’s presence in Jantar Mantar perhaps did not provoke the anger and disdain felt for the ruling party since it has never been in power, but it does seem that Arvind Kejriwal is aligning his group closely with public opinion, which is more than can be said for the other political parties. On the whole, commendable.

The political class: Downright villainous in the case of the ruling party, whilst the opposition has been either incompetent or confused or clueless. From the ruling party, only Sheila Dixit dared to come to Jantar Mantar, but she was booed away in part because she had the police evict students when they gheraoed her residence earlier. Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Manmohan Singh were missing in the action, the usually voluble and argumentative Congress spokespersons confessed their helplessness in tackling a peaceful students’ agitation, and to make matters worse, no executive decisions, such as the sacking of the police commissioner at a minimum, were taken. On the other hand, the police were allowed to create mayhem in the early stages of the Damini movement, lathi-charging, tear-gassing and water-cannoning the students, calling to mind a dictatorship, and Central Delhi was controversially sealed.

The opposition, surprisingly, showed the same disconnect with the agitation as the ruling Congress. It began with petty political rivalries at Jantar Mantar, with the CPI-M activists protesting separately from other Left groups to preserve their “ideological purity”. Brinda Karat addressed the CPI-M group without venturing to meet the unaffiliated young who could have gained much from her presence, support and advice. Meanwhile, the BJP’s Sushma Swaraj made no visit to Jantar Mantar and no attempts to engage the agitators, although belatedly, the party-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad did try to force open the barricaded streets of Central Delhi. In sum, a poor show from the political class, and hatred for the ruling party is at its peak, which the Congress leadership is unwilling and unable to address.

Delhi Police: It has become the hated symbol of the state, and the biggest institutional loser and villain of 2012. Miraculously, Neeraj Kumar remains police commissioner, but he has no equity left. If the Manmohan Singh government had been serious about reclaiming the lost ground, he should have been forced out long ago. He is unlikely to continue very long as commissioner, but his ouster would not enhance the image of the Delhi Police. By employing violence against protesters, the police have alienated them. Then police were exposed faking a constable’s death as a result of protestors’ violence. Finally, Damini’s hush-hush cremation under police pressure has robbed Delhi Police of any residual goodwill it had. It is only a matter of time before Delhi Police is brought under Delhi’s chief minister, when it will be severely curtailed from its licentiousness, and become robustly accountable for the city’s law-and-order situation. In the past fortnight, the worst side of Delhi Police has been on exhibit, and as the coercive instrument of state, it has come for villainous highlighting. Without reforms, Delhi Police constitutes the biggest threat to citizens of Delhi, as bad as the rapists that fearlessly roam the streets.