Yesterday we lost a 23 year old woman, to a society where equal freedom to the sexes is still a distant dream, an independent woman faces constant violence and one such ghastly case has been in the public domain for the past 10 days.
All of us have to stand together for peace and justice in these difficult times. Find below a small report from araria on our reaction to violence that shook us some months back. In February, 2013 cultural activists Vinay and Charul will be doing a cultural programme in Araria and Patna. We invite you to the programme :
“Insaan Hain Hum” – A musical presentation by Vinay and Charul. This musical expression brings out different forms of social, communal and development led violence in our society and appeals to our inner beings to reflect and question the hate and violence within and around us. It is an appeal for peace and justice.
“Insaan hain hum”
What brought together a theatre person, a political activist, a trade unionist, a mazdoor and a member of a writer’s organization? It was a shocking report that appeared in the morning newspaper that day – “13 people of Assam thrown out of a train, 4 die”.
The ethnic clash in Assam had triggered a spate of violence, with thousands rendered homeless and some hundred odd people dead. The violence had seemed far and distant with incidents happening in Assam, Bombay, Bangalore and other places, but when the train headlines hit the papers, it had happened next door on the Bihar-Bengal border. We in Araria, with a sizeable Muslim population had to finally respond.
So who would take the initiative? Would it be a political party, a theatre group, a writer’s association, a worker’s organisation … we had some vociferous discussions, humanity was threatened by these numerous incidents of violence, will we be mute spectators, or will we go out and look for voices in the wilderness. We agreed that our appeal would not come out in the name of any organization so we drafted an appeal and set out to say what we had to “Insaan hain hum!” and ask others to join their voices to this appeal.
Our first step was to prepare a ground for our appeal, and so we sat down scanning the papers of the last one month for reports on violence, and we found them everywhere – on the front page, in the middle pages, on each page. Every day the newspaper carried several reports of violent incidents. We made cuttings and then categorized them in five sections- the recent assam violence, violence against women (rape, molestation, killings, brandings, unjust panchayats, domestic violence, witch hunts), other criminal offences (loot, dacoity, killings, kidnappings), systemic violence (poverty, lack of basic facilities, price rise, corruption, starvation) and reactionary violence (killings of suspected/ identified criminals, burning of vehicles, burning of a police station, a government vehicle). These then became five posters which aided our discussions around the growing violence in our society and the basis of our appeal to take the pledge that “hume sankalp lena hoga ki nafrat ki lehar mein beh kar hum insaaniyat ko nahi bhul jaaen aur is vyavastha ko aisa banaane mein sahyog den ki har ek manushya ko izzat se jeene ko mile”.
Over the next three days a small but growing group of ordinary citizens, went from school to school and nukkad to nukkad. Soon enough we had interacted with hundreds of people, who had heard what we had to say intently and added their own voices of sanity, in this time of growing violence. We had collected hundreds of signatures and thumb prints on the appeal. The signatories included peoples from different political hues, professions, educational-caste and class backgrounds, we all had only one thing in common, we were against this growing violence whether directed against any one community, be it the minorities or women, or against an insensitive system unable to give redress to common people.
While five of us would spread out with the posters in hand Shishu Chandam, a theatre activist from IPTA and SSB jawan would raise his voice …
Soon we would have a crowd intent on listening. And then one by one we would ask why we were targeting a particular community over the past few months, has it something to do with how violent we had become as a society, how often we heard of molestations, rapes, women being beaten or burnt after being declared a dyan, suicides, but we did not even murmur our dissent. We would then ask if someone could identify who these crimes were against and promptly the answer came “women”. We would then go on to what we saw everyday in the papers and news channels as criminal offences of loot, dacoity, kidnappings for ransom etc and everybody would promptly agree this being violence too and its episodes having continuously going up. We would then read out headlines like “Five die after an overcrowded boat capsizes” “One tubewell for a population of 650 people” “no teacher but children pass on paper” “corrupt official caught on tape” and so on … talking of poverty, unemployment, corruption, lack of basic facilities. Our open question would then be is this violence and in the nukkad sabhas it was a clear YES, but our school going youngsters were less sure, they would ask “How a boat capsizing is violence”. Was it because a nukkad sabha usually attracted adults and youngsters in the big bad world who had faced this systemic violence, who had had to pay bribes, go empty stomach on a rainy day, while the school going youngsters in a special government school and private school of high standing, were yet to face the brutalities of the system. But the ray of hope is that the school discussions helped raise questions and as one deifinition of discovery goes “Discovery is not about finding answers, it is about questioning the answers.”
By the time we had come to our last chart, the participation of the listeners usually increased, the previous discussion had got them thinking. Given the systemic violence, were episodes of reactionary violence correct?
‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘opposition to systemic violence’ is necessary but violence is not the answer, these were the three answers that came up each time. The school meetings and nukkad sabhas in Araria were done from 22nd August to 26th August and ended with a candle light vigil at the Chandani Chowk, with the posters left there for some more to read and then for someone to take home.