In an unusual Valentine’s Day celebration in the city, a large crowd expressed its protest against violence against women in the tunes of Gujarati folklore garba and Punjab’s bhangra at the Sports Grounds of Gujarat Vidyapeeth, one of the premier institutions set up by Mahatma Gandhi.

Scores of youngsters, civil society workers and city artists performed under the banner “Ahmedabad Rising,” expressing their protests against sexual violence and gender bias.

Such events, unlike in the major metros like Delhi and Mumbai, are rare in Gujarat.

Neither regional literature nor folklore has reflected the recent events in the state – they had somewhat remained alien to contemporary political discourse.

The event was part of the global campaign in which 184 countries also participated. By 7 p.m., the venue was teeming with a huge crowd of youngsters calling for an end to sexual violence.

There were no unnecessary lectures at the programme, no political posturing by anyone. There was an uncanny symbolism in the beating of the drums and spirit of the dancers.

Garba chosen

Mallika Sarabhai, eminent danseuse, of cultural troupe Darpana, who was the prime mover of the “Ahmedabad Rising” idea, said they chose garba in which men do not lead. She said garba was one of the few dances that provide a level playing field to men and women.

Students attend in strength

The occasion attracted hundreds of youngsters, especially from reputed institutions like the Mudra Institute of Communications and Administration, the Indian Institute of Management, the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, the National Institute of Design, Nirma University, HL Commerce College, St. Xavier’s College, DPS, NIFT and several others. This was besides scores of individuals from different walks of life.

Not one-off

Ms. Sarabhai said this was not a one-off event but just the beginning of a long-term initiative to build a public awakening against sexual violence and gender bias.