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- By: Anitha S
I have lost count of the endless letters I have written in my mind’s note pad to you since last month. There were so many moments when thoughts about you, the special life you led in the short time you lived and the memories shared by your parents and friends made me want to talk to you. But the enormity of what happened to you and the sorrow of the loss made me silent. But please understand that not a day passed without me thinking about you and your beautiful, tender life.
Last month on 22nd a lot of us gathered together on a street in our city called Manaveeyam Veedhi to say No to atrocities that was committed to you by a group of people in the name of religion supported by those in power and holding wealth. We had an enemy then- we could name the enemy and demand action be taken. The same was the case when dear Gouri was killed last year. And many others who spoke up against injustice, hatred, crime and violence all over the country perpetrated by a few.
The most striking thing about this meeting was the youngsters who came together under the banner SEE, HEAR AND SPEAK.
Negating the tenets of the proverbial 3 wise monkeys not to dwell on bad thoughts, the monkeys here compel us to see,hear and talk about injustice, hatred, violence, death of democracy and crime. There was a huge canvas that was spread on the pavement where all those who gathered drew their feelings of fear and anger. Many especially a young group from Chilla sang songs like Milke Chalo and We shall overcome. The most touching and poignant part of the program was the drama/ street play staged by 3 young girls from a group called Grameena Padashala (Village Learning Place) in North Kerala based on a poem by a famous Malayalam poetess Sugathakumari titled “The Dead Children are Coming back”. To remove the blood curdling feel the description of children, raped, mutilated and killed created in us, the girls cooled our hearts with the poem by Ulloor S.Parameswara Iyer called the Song of Love which says there is only One Religion in the World, Only one religion that holds the life of the World and that is Love. The youngest child in the group made us think many times about the absurdity of human thought and scriptures by singing a song asking the mother what religion and caste cows and cats belong to. The answer given by the mother explains the senseless classification that human beings alone have while all other living beings are connected as beings with the same call or food. There were many who were signing an appeal to the Prime Minister of the country requesting him to proclaim safety and security to children and to stop killings by known culprits in his next “Man ki Bath”. There was hope,love and courage in the air instead of fear and hatred as night fell – we shared food, space and dreams with a boldness and openness that is possible only in a democratic, secular land like ours- we hated to say like our country was- we refused to accept and give up.Somewhere within us, as we parted we had taken a silent vow that we will hold hands and protect the flame of the chirags ( small earthen lamps) we lit that evening. And it took your tender life for us to come together and do it,dear child.
Yesterday, exactly a month after, members of the Women’s Collective along with many concerned individuals assembled again at a more prominent place in the city – this time the purpose of the gathering was more scary and vague. The purpose was to protest against the increase in sexual abuse of young children. It was scary because here the enemy though known is part of a male-dominated family set up in our society that gives him the power to subjugate, abuse and make silent. The enemy is someone close to the child- the father, an uncle, a friend of the parents, a neighbour whom the child and family trusted. We shared shocking and chilling information like the increase in number of child abuse cases that have been registered from January-March 2018 in a state like Kerala- 119 cases where a young child barely 8 or 12 years old is abused. It was revealed that in the 12 Nirbhaya homes in the State more than 360 girls of age 7-18 have been sheltered for years. Some between the age of 12-18 are young mothers, made pregnant and also subjected to the trauma of giving up their babies for adoption. The offender who would be given bail after 3 months would be leading a normal life and maybe even continuing his perverse activities. The innocent child, most often able to describe what happened to her as just ‘ a terrible pain” not knowing the vocabulary of the adult world would be sobbing herself to sleep in an unknown place, a strange home, away from a mother or grandmother.
As we shared these stories of hopelessness and despondency about the human race, three voices came out clear- one of 16 year old Aysha who in her persuasive and clear language spoke for the child who would forget the experience and want to live like any other child in a normal home…each time she is taken for trail as part of a case that will linger for years, she is stopped from being a child. As she grows older the memory of an incident that happened to her years back fades – the cruelty and insensitivity of the system that reminds her of that event has to be banned for ever. She should be empowered to grow strong, bold and beautiful with zest for life and family bonds. Her childhood should not be a series of ifs, nos and do nots..it should be filled with Yes and Go ahead. She should not be under lock and key but should be let out to fly like a bird. The second one was the special song written almost a century ago by Tamil poet Subrahmania Bharathi ( the much heard Odi Vilayadu Pappa) asking the child to be bold in the face of injustice and wrong, to spit harshly on the face of those who do this and stay strong sung by members of the MBS Youth Choir.
The evening ended with little smart Nandana charming us with a song she played on her violin- a Malayalam song from old times which asks the flame of love to open its eyes and spread its comforting touch all over the world. ( Lokam muzhuvan sukham pakaranayi sneha deepame mizhi thurakoo).
It is clear from the two events, a month apart maybe and for different purposes too that the most healing and comforting thing to do is to spread the message of love, tolerance and cooperation. To drive away intolerance, divisiveness, violence and inequality with the sharp feel of boldness, courage and clarity that young minds should be blessed with.
To start an education of the mind and body by which a boy learns to respect a girl/woman and vice versa…to make homes, schools, colleges and institutions spaces of sharing and caring. The world that the cruel, inhuman, narrow minded, intolerant people who rule with their greed, power and money fear most is this beautiful world where children, women and the vulnerable are secure, where resources and Nature’s boundies are shared, where equity and justice are synonyms of development and progress.
Do we dare dream of this, dear Asifa?
Should we not dream of this so that we can continue to live in this world that you were forced to leave so cruelly?
(In conversation with Aleyamma Vijayan, P.E.Usha, Santhi.S, Asha,P.P, Veena M, Aysha Joyce, Shaji Jose, Celin,K.V, Seeta Dasan, Geetha Nazeer, Ajith,Reghuthaman, Prakash Gopinath and many others)