Are we running out of candles to pierce the darkness?
Every candlelight pierces the darkness but with the prevailing darkness being so huge, it will take a sustained effort from the masses to effect change. A commendable initiative by the Goan public, at several places in Goa such as Margao, Nuvem, Miramar, and Saligao – the candle light marches that brought together thousands, is a welcome and encouraging sign and has created awareness and a movement. Cafe speaks to citizens to check out what they think should be done next
Even as citizens across got together to express their anger with the current state of affairs and to protest against the Kathua and Unnao rape cases; the country continues to reel from horror stories involving horrific crimes against women and children. Joining a wave of protests that are being held across the country, the Goan public, through their ‘walk for justice’ have managed to ensure that sexual violence and related issues are being discussed in the public space and not being swept under the carpet. “Goa’s young people organised an amazing set of protests on Sunday evening to make their point, and battle against the mindset and [even political] tolerance that allows brutal rapes of young children to happen and sometimes get justified in India,” says Frederick Noronha. The response was extremely overwhelming and a friendly reminder that all hope isn’t lost . The youth was given a platform to share their take on the matter and place our opinions beyond the realms of social media. . There was music, poetry, pledges, and a union through a singing ‘we will overcome/ Hum honge kaamyab’ as a way to unite voices. The crowd was filled with people of different ages, genders and professions. The addressing of the crowd was entirely left to the youth and that is what made it special. The people of Goa were a part of something that they believed in, and they walked for a movement that doesn’t stop here. A fight for justice and basic human rights is what we have to work for everyday,” adds Gretchen Barreto. While Gretchen was speaking about the Panjim rally that was powered by youth and one that saw the crowds walk from Miramar circle to Azad Maidan, groups had converged at Margao and carried out a walk around the Margao garden. “ At the Margao Walk, we also had an art installation to make a strong statement and there was a signature petition where got close to 600 signatures,” said Althea Fernandes, whose group released a statement at the rally. “We call upon all political groups to put an end to the horrifying politicisation and communalisation of the crime; as well as to stop the harassment to the family of Asifa. As women, we are extremely shocked and appalled by the manner in which incidents of gender oppression are appropriated by patriarchal mindsets within and outside the corridors of power to subvert justice and even rob the victims of their victimhood. We also call upon the government to ensure that investigations by the Crime Branch are fast-tracked and are fair to be followed by a fast track court trial so that justice can be dispensed. Let’s stop discriminating, “Victim of Sexual Violence”, based on gender, age, caste, class, religion, region, colour, occupation, situation and behavior! “ said the YWCA Goa, which organized the rally. Against this backdrop, the protest held outside Carmel College Nuvem and the march from Saligao panchayat to St Alex’s
Church in Calangute, was a clear indication Goans from all parts of state have been demanding justice for the young rape victim. With the momentum there have been calls for these kind of efforts, an important first step and that the walk for justice leads to a movement for not only justice but a change in the mindset and the attitude in the country to such kind of incident.
Cafe speaks to citizens who speak about what more can be done
and what’s the next step
(The art installation at the Margao rally was made by artist Katharina Karkar, ironically at the time of the Nirbhaya rape case and is called December 26, 2012). “The installation refers to the Nirbhaya case and sadly enough now for the Asifa case. Rape is about power and silencing and the underlying cultural issues need to be addressed. Rape is a universal issue, but why do such violent gang rapes happen repeatedly in our country? We need to start to reflect how we raise our boys and girls, why we differentiate between the respectable woman and “the other”, and why there is so much fear of independent women who demand a right of their own body.”
“I attended the #JusticeForAsifa march from Miramar to Azad Maidan. It was wonderful to see so many people come out to show their support. But what stunned and excited me, even more, was the number of young children and teenagers in the mix. I even overheard a conversation between 4 teenage boys discussing the number of rapes that have happened in the last few years and months. While they didn’t seem to have all the details, they still knew quite a bit and spoke intelligently. All I can say is, gone are the days when kids were unaware. It’s a good thing they are paying attention. This is their safety that is at stake. While we are fighting for our women, we are also fighting for our children. Religion and politics can go fly a kite. Things have to change or we are best off, obliterating the country from the globe.”
KARINA DE G PINTO
“The recent spate of gangrapes around the country is horrifying. The worst thing is that it happens with impunity and continues unchecked. In Goa it happens in tourism locations where teenage girls, migrant girls and single women are abused but are too afraid to complain lest they be ostracised. There is an urgent need for preemptive consciousness building and stringent punitive measures.”
“I don’t see the march as the ‘first step’ in the movement. It can be called a catalyst, but marching in silence is not going to help. The real first step is education. But I feel that the damage done to the mind-sets of some societies is irreversible, at least for several years more. The most that we can do is try to correct people in our immediate circles; to induce a better mind-set into people going off track. There’ll be activists, NGOs doing as much as possible. But I feel that the difference all this is going to make is minimal.”
“This march was the result of students getting riled up against the inhumanity of the situation. Honestly, I can’t give you a next step to this. It was something the people needed, for their belief in humanity to be restored. So, everyone showed up to support each-other in this national grievance. I think, to make a difference, each person has to start on their own – we must remember that despite our differences, the one thing that brings us to one level is that we’re human. Each person must do their part to be human, and influence others to be human too.”
“The candle march was the first step toward making a national statement, since it happened across the country. I think the next step is for the Government working on stricter laws about the rape crisis. What we as individuals can do is continue to have more peaceful protests till we have those laws in place. But I am not sure if that will get us what we want, so maybe find a way to work within the system to get this done. I think with better education, the Government taking some hard but needed decisions, and people changing their mindsets, we might be able to get somewhere.”
“How do these perpetrators find the guts to commit crimes like these without worrying about the consequences? They find the guts because there are no consequences. Court cases take years and years. How many times have we heard of FIR’s not being filed by the police because ministers have not allowed them to do so, ministers using the police force to legally behave like goons and have used the force as their private armies, honest cops being transferred again and again to obscure posts because they do not fall in line with corrupt politicians? When are we going to stop being superficial and find a remedy that fights to attack the problem at the root and not just cut of the twigs at the top? What we as a country need to do is come out on the streets and force the central government and the opposition to change policy right at the top. What we need to do is select a President and Governors of each state who are absolutely not tainted even with a single court case and not affiliated to any political party. I’m sure we can find 29 people among 1.2 billiion that fit the bill.”
“The march is a part of a movement that doesn’t stop here. For the future, with respect to the utilities at hand, a petition can be signed, nationally demanding stricter laws to not only punish crimes through capital punishment, but more importantly to prevent the occurrence of such monstrosities (among other much needed reforms). The government needs to understand that you can only abuse a nation for this long. It won’t be a while before patience isn’t an option anymore and people become as merciless as you were when you protected the men that killed our brethren. We need more workshops, more syllabus changes, more talks to increase the understanding of the opposite sex, we need to start treating sex like a normal thing and not something so shameful that the very norms that prevent us from acknowledging the fact that yes, people have sex. Actors and actresses holding up hashtags will only do close to nothing. If they really want to do something, then should say no to doing item numbers and stop being a part of an industry that moved from showcasing strong women shows like ‘Shanti’ and moving to a depressing line of televised dystopia of submissive women.”
“I had the honour of walking all those kms (for the Panjim rally) with an 80 year old lady! Wow! Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of, who do the things, the things that no one can imagine. The turnout reflects how many of us want change and justice. This is a call to break the mindset and to bring justice for Asifa.”
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