New Delhi: Keep the candle burning for Rizwan. Ever since this slogan was raised on the pavement outside Kolkata’s St Xavier's College on the evening of September 28, 35,000 signatures have been penned down in Rizwan's name.

In India today, the burning candle has become a symbol for justice. Whether in the Jessica Lal murder case, the Priyadarshini Mattoo rape case and now the Rizwan murder case, citizens take to the streets with their candles exerting tremendous pressure on the judiciary.

Candlelit protests have taught the youth to rebel, to question injustice and more importantly, it initiated a new trend – that of heightened civic activism.

Call it new age satyagraha or an easy way to express solidarity, the country is surely hooked on to the Rang De Basanti phenomena.
The introduction of reservation quota for OBC's, a brainchild of Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh, greatly popularised candlelight protests.

For over three months agitated students joined hands to protest against reservations and on March 29, 2007 they emerged victorious when the Supreme Court put a stay on the quota implementation.

On December 18, 2006, the family of Jessica Lal finally got justice but throughout the painfully long seven years of the trial, people kept up support for the family through candlelight vigils and online petitions. Unbelievably, one online petition registered 1,40,000 signatures in favour of the late model within just one month.

On March 23, 2007, an online petition seeking justice for Priyadarshani Matoo received 500 signatures on the very first day. The number swelled to over a lakh within a month and candlelight protests were back in the vocabulary of a restless generation.

Similar was the case of Meher Bhargava, who was killed while protecting her daughter-in-law from eve teasers.

But public opinion has not always made the needed impact. A case in point is the 1958 trial of Commander Nanavati who stood accused of murder. Even though the jury and the public were largely in favour of Nanavati, the Supreme Court prosecuted him.

Notwithstanding occasional failures, the message is loud and clear – the common man has finally realised that one doesn't need to be in a position of power to make a difference.

Parikshit Luthra / CNN-IBN

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