To mark the anniversary of the Nirbhaya gang-rape case, two cultural groups come together to organise a mobile concert in Delhi.
Last winter left many of us out in the cold. How can a human be such a monster? It is around the same time last year when life was brutally snuffed out of a young girl on Delhi roads leaving us ashamed as a society. We called her Nirbhaya, perhaps, to cover our centuries of cowardice. For those who thought that a stronger law and a stringent action against the culprits will be a deterrent were in for a reality check when the rape incidents remained a recurring feature in 2013. The disease is not only festering at the margins of the society as the recent events show that it is a state of mind and even journalism and judiciary are not immune to this sick mindset. The only ray of hope is that more and more women are refusing to take sexual violence silently and that there are still men who know that masculinity is more than just a pair of groping or shielding hands. There is a renewed debate on gender roles.
In this light, Swaang, a Mumbai-based theatre and protest music group/band and Majmaa, a Delhi-based cultural group with progressive leanings are organising a public event on December 16 to mark one year of the shameful Nirbhaya gang-rape case. Titled Jurrat: Aazaad Chalo, Bebaak Chalo!, the event is a mobile protest music concert that will travel through Delhi.
“Jurrat is a ‘show of strength’ Now that the perpetrators have been convicted and a sentence pronounced, it is an effort to prevent ourselves from slipping into a comfortable inertia. It is a reminder that the battle against gender violence is arduous and long but is our responsibility as well. It is the decision that from now on there shall be no more victims, only survivors,” says actor and activist Swara Bhaskar, a leading member of Swaang.
Funded by Oxfam India and Action Aid, Swara says this is an independent event with no political leaning or any kind of political sponsorship. “It is an effort to remember Nirbhaya’s fight and the fight of many other such women, including the gutsy Tehelka journalist recently and not allow these to fade into the oblivion of a statistical record.”
Talking about the history and relevance of protest songs, Ravinder Randhawa of Swaang and lyricist of protest “Maa Nee Meri”, says, “As Bertolt Brecht had said to a question ‘In the dark times, Will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times.’” “As artists”, Randhawa avers, “I believe it is important for your art to reflect the reality of the world you live in and the social context you find around you. The true power of art is that it can transform people’s ideas and thoughts and actually intervene in changing over time the mindset of a society. This is because art can transcend the intellectual and connect at the emotional level. Especially, theatre, music and films.” He reminds that protest music is a very potent tool for both creative expression and the cry for social change and has been since the time of Bulle Shah and Kabir and later Faiz and Saahir and Dushyant Kumar and myriad others.
Post-Nirbhaya case, women’s safety in cities made headlines and the recent cases have shown that even the so-called empowered women are not safe. Supriya Chotani of Majma feels women are and have been vulnerable whether they are in villages or cities or on the streets. “That has not changed. What is good is that women are individually and collectively taking a stand against violence and that post the Delhi gang-rape social discourse at large has been more supportive of victims, like in the Tejpal case. This is a positive change but there is a long way to go yet and Jurrat is an effort to keep spreading awareness and busting myths (like women invite violence) about sexual harassment and assault on women.”
Describing the mobile concert as a moving caravan, Swara says, “It will comprise an open trailer, atop which live artistes will perform protest music and which will be trailed by volunteers and citizens on motorbikes and cycles. . It will move through the city and stop at six to eight spots in Delhi, where in the last five years rape cases have been reported. These spots have been chosen with care to include not just the sensational cases that caught media attention, but the ones that went unnoticed as well. The caravan will stop briefly at the Munirka bus-stop where Nirbhaya and her companion boarded the bus and finally culminate at the spot in Mahipalpur (or as close as possible to the spot) where the six men threw Nirbhaya’s brutalised body on the road.”
At each spot, Swaang will be joined in performance by other renowned artists namely Rabbi, Sona Mahapatra, and Swanand Kirkire. The caravan will also make a strong visual statement through art work and graffiti in its attempt to claim the public spaces. “The motorbikes and cycles will display and carry banners and posters made upon and from dupattas, the garment being a cultural symbol of the much abused and anyway problematic concept of the ‘honour’ of the female body,” informs Swara.
There is still a set of people who believe that women should also look within. “I don’t think women should be held responsible in any way for violence that they suffer,” counters Swara. “Such violence has deep seated ideological and structural roots and I believe that whatever the context there can be no alibi or justification for rape, sexual harassment and violence. However I feel women should look within to find the strength to fight, resist, protest and report sexual violence.”