‘Today It Is Them,Tomorrow It Is Us’! Candle Light March by Aloysians Voicing Atrocities on Women & Children

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‘Today It Is Them, Tomorrow It Is Us’! Panel Discussion and Candle Light March to DK Deputy Commissioner’s Office by Aloysians of St Aloysius College (Autonomous), Mangaluru Voicing recent Atrocities on Women & Children

Mangaluru: Killings of a six-year-old girl and a vet doctor recently are just two examples of a problem that appears to be getting worse in India. Over the past week, a wave of anger and repulsion has enveloped India in response to the gang rape and murder of a 27-year-old vet in Hyderabad as she made her way home from work. The four men who allegedly carried out the attack deliberately deflated her scooter tyres, then waited. After offering her help, they allegedly dragged her to isolated scrubland by the side of the road, raped her, asphyxiated her and then dumped her body in a motorway underpass, before dousing it with kerosene and setting it alight. The four suspects were controversially shot dead by police.

Yet while the horrific crime has prompted hundreds to take to the streets, and calls for lynching and hanging in parliament, it was far from an isolated incident. According to statistics, a woman is raped in India every 20 minutes. Sources reveal that India is the most dangerous place to be a woman. As well as the Hyderabad case, there was the abduction, gang rape and murder of a young lawyer in Jharkhand; the rape and murder of a 55-year-old cloth seller in Delhi’s Gulabi Bagh neighbourhood; and a teenager in the state of Bihar was gang-raped and killed, before her body was set on fire. And just a couple of days ago, in the small rural Rajasthan village of Kherli, Twinkle became one of the youngest recent victims of India’s sexual violence pandemic. Apart from these rapes/murders happening across India, we too hear of many rapes/murders right in our Karnataka State and also in Dakshina Kannada/Udupi and surrounding areas.

It was seven years ago, after the brutal gang rape of Jyoti Singh, a student on a bus in Delhi in 2012, that India’s systemic problem with sexual violence was first pushed into the spotlight. Thousands took to the streets to demand action in the name of Singh, – who was christened Nirbhaya, meaning fearless, by the media. New legislation doubled prison terms for rapists to 20 years. But seven years on, the consensus among activists and women is that the problem is getting worse. The key social issues behind the crisis remain unaddressed and the culture of impunity for sexual crimes remains firmly embedded.

In the courts, there are 133,000 pending rape cases, and on the other hand-Rapes, atrocities, harassment, murder of women still carry on non-stop. Unless this becomes a problem of nationalism and national pride, I don’t see anything changing. Society here devalues women systematically and makes them subhuman, and rape is the worst symptom of that. It does feel like the levels of depravity and cruelty in these crimes are increasing. Campaigners and activists have criticized calls for rapists to face the death penalty, saying it encourages offenders to kill their victims.

The cry for the death penalty is nothing but a red herring. It’s the easy option because it avoids any institutional accountability and doesn’t cost a thing, it’s just lawmakers reassuring themselves that all it will take to solve this problem is to eliminate one or two of these devils. We are still not having the conversation which needs to happen, so nothing changes. All the talk of the death penalty for rape just means we may be seeing more women raped or murdered so they can’t remain alive as a witness.

In order to bring awareness and raise their voices against such atrocities on women and children, locally a candlelight march was organized pertaining to “One of the most pervasive violations of human rights in the world, one of the least prosecuted crimes, and one of the greatest threats to lasting peace and development.” The students, faculty and Management of St Aloysius College (Autonomous) under the leadership of Women’s Forum, CASH (Committee Against Sexual Harassment) and Human Rights Cell organised the Candle Light March procession to the DC ‘s office on Friday 13th December 2019 to voice their dissent on the recent crimes against women and children and vulnerable and expressed their solidarity with the victims.

Prior to the March, a Panel Discussion was held between 4 to 5 pm at the college campus at the Mother Theresa Peace Park to mark the day. “We’ve gathered here as a disturbed audience to bring out our discontent and voice our concerns against the violation of human rights that appears to have become a routine matter in our country if we don’t take care.” voiced the young faculty and students of the college in the panel discussion

Neeti Shetty from the Department of English and Alwyn D’Souza from the Department of Political Science were the faculty panellists who questioned the attitude of silence among the people. Harshitha and Aparna from BA, Adarsh from BSc, Sahil from BCA and Kushubu from B Voc participated as student panellists. The panellists discussed the atrocities against women since the incident of Banvari Devi in Rajasthan and the struggle that led to Vishaka guidelines and later Sexual Harassment of women at workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Act 2013). Students also brought to discussion Puttur case of Dalit rape and IPC – Scheduled Caste Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act & IT Act, Encounter death, role of civil society, Nirbhaya case etc.

Rector of St Aloysius Institutions Fr. Dionysius Vas SJ appealed to the students to have a culture of diversity in the campus and appreciated the culture of multi-languages that the students employ while conducting sports day on the previous day. The principal of St Aloysius College Dr Fr Praveen Martis SJ appreciated the move to improve social responsibility through the March.

Moderator Vineetha, Registrar, Roshni School of Social Work, Mangaluru appreciated the efforts of the students and impressed the young students to believe doing something to promote change. Dr Shalini Aiyappa, a faculty at SAC delivered the vote of thanks. Student Cleophas and group led the invocation to God. “I think we can all agree that the time for complacency is long gone, has passed and belongs to another era. The silence on violence against women and children has been broken and now, now is the time for stronger action,” said Joeana Cera, III BA while compering the programme. Dr Saraswathi, Coordinator of the Women’s forum and Dr Shalini Aiyappa, co-ordinator CASH and Dr Rose Veera D’Souza of the Human Rights programme were the conveners of the programme.

Marching in silence peacefully, holding placards around 1000 students proceeded to the DC’s Office in procession and displayed a street play to promote awareness for a secure society for men and women. Few NGO ‘s of Mangaluru also joined in the march and expressed their solidarity for the cause. “It’s high time we as students of a premier institution of Mangaluru raise our voices against the atrocities and horrific incidents taking place against women and the vulnerable. We all know that we have a lot to do. We have to do much more to end these horrible abuses and the impunity that allows these human rights violations to continue” -was the crux of the peaceful march.

Upon reaching Deputy Commissioner’s office entrance gate, students displayed a street play, highlighting the atrocities on women. Dr Saraswathi and Dr Dinesh Nayak, both faculties at SAC who guided the street play expressed their views. Jyoti Chelar from the NGO spoke about the need to change our culture of silence to claim justice. Dr Dinesh thanked the DC Ms Sindhu B Rupesh IAS and Dr P S Harsha Police Commissioner of Mangaluru and Police of Pandeshwar and Bunder Police station for the support.

After the street play, The Rector, Principal, faculty and Student Council members along with the conveners proceeded to the DCs office and handed over the memorandum to be submitted to the Chief Minister through Her. The DC received the memorandum. The co-ordinators thanked the DC for the co-operation. Prof. Naveen Mascarenhas of SAC and the Student Council President, Lloyd Vineeth guided the students in the march.

The MEMORANDUM submitted to the DC stated – “In the wake of recent atrocities against women, children and the vulnerable, We, as citizens of Mangaluru in general and students and staff of St Aloysius College (Autonomous), Mangaluru in particular, share a deep commitment to stand with the victims and voice our dissent against sexual atrocities in our society. We strongly feel that “Today It Is Them and Tomorrow It Is Us”.

We feel the need to be deeply connected to advance human rights and fight against the culture of silence. It is important that our administration takes steps against such atrocities and creates an atmosphere of freedom and fearlessness. We desire that our state agencies take corrective measures to end these horrendous abuses and the impunity that allows these human rights violations to continue.

Every citizen in India should understand that sexist behaviour, sexual harassment and sexual assault are crimes against humanity and cannot be tolerated, condoned or ignored. We need an enduring cultural change where every human being is treated with dignity and respect; where privacy is protected and every person is treated with sensitivity; where bystanders are motivated to intervene and where offenders know that they will be held appropriately accountable.

We urge the administration to take stern action against the offenders sending a strong message to them that such crimes do not go unpunished. Besides, there is an urgent need to educate the citizens by adopting a multidisciplinary approach as a preventive action. Such an approach needs a collective effort involving bureaucracy, police personnel, NGOs, educational institutions, transport sector employees of buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws and the public in general.

We request the State agencies to give utmost priority to protect the safety and dignity of women, children and the vulnerable and make our country safe and secure for all “.

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