On Thursday, several people in Jaipur celebrated the Valentine’s Day in a way it has never been done before, as they gathered in the heart of the city to pledge an end to violence against women under the global “One Billion Rising” campaign.
“I too, as a woman, have come to lend my voice and express solidarity to end violence against women from the face of the earth,” Rajasthan Governor Margaret Alva told thousands of people gathered at Jaipur’s Statue Circle.
Along with other protesters in India and abroad, the gathering pledged: “I will not discriminate against women and girls in anyway;” “I will not be violent towards anyone, especially women and girls;” “I will not keep quiet if violence is done to me;” “I will actively oppose violence being done to any woman/girl.”
And that was how the “pink city” celebrated the “pinkest” of festivals.
The Jaipur end of the “global rising” saw people from all walks of life converge at one place. Once there, they sang, danced, spoke and shouted, all to communicate just one message: the end of all violence against women.
The participants included students and teachers from more than 20 schools and colleges, members of unions, police, administration, slums, universities, elected panches and sarpanches, Anganwadi workers, Sathins among others.
“We have to reclaim our freedoms from our homes, workplaces, farms, fields, Panchayats,” said renowned grassroots activist Aruna Roy. Ms. Roy said it was time people rose up and said “we have had enough.”
In a similar programme in Ajmer’s Bhim town, Ms. Roy’s organisation Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) led a rally of over 1200 children from six schools to protest violence against women.
The students protested through posters, slogans, songs and two street plays depicting stories of dowry, domestic violence, infanticide and child marriages from their own villages.
Jaipur Mayor Jyoti Khandelwal urged women to occupy positions of decision-making in order to bring about positive, lasting changes.
Chairperson of the State Women’s Commission Lad Kumari Jain said the Commission was always there for girls in distress.
District Collector T. Ravi Kant and Police Commissioner B.L. Soni, said the police and administration wanted a safe city, but without women being safe at home, school and market place, the city could not be safe.
They urged women to stop reconciling to violence and protest and break out of the chain of violence.
The pledge in Jaipur coincided with similar programmes across Rajasthan, including in Ajmer, Pratapgarh, Jalore, Dungarpur, Udaipur, Barmer, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Tonk, Churu, Dausa, Pali, Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Rajasamand, Baran, Alwar, Jhalawar and other districts.
“The ‘One Billion Rising’ programme in Jaipur and Rajasthan will not be just a one-time event. The campaign will continue unabated and the next major date of action would be International Women’s Day (March 8),” Kavita Srivastava, national secretary, People’s Union of Civil Liberties told The Hindu.