Himachal Pradesh is rising!

Body: 

On the anniversary day of Delhi Gang Rape Jagori Grameen (JG) organized an evening of performances centered on the theme of Restoration of Justice and Ending Violence against Women as part of One Billion Rising (OBR) campaign at Sant Nirankari Bhavan, Dharmashala, Kangara. The evening was graced by the presence and performance of Eve Ensler, the renowned playwright and activist, the founder of VDay and OBR campaign among other artists and activists. On cold December evening more than 450 people from the area made the evening lively. The use of the cultural forms of protest was particularly appreciated by the audience.

To begin with JG team sang the song- One billion Rising……. thereby setting the tone of the programme. Followed by this Abha Bhaiya formally opened the evening with her welcome address and expressed her happiness and gratitude to all who had made an effort to come there. She said that it was an occasion for mourning as well as that of celebration; mourning for the fact that despite a collective outrage against the incidences of violence against women which facilitated bringing about certain legal reforms yet the larger mindset has not changed which is reflective of the fact that much more at much deeper level needs to be done. For this she hailed upon one and all to do social audit of our homes which are the most unsafe place for girls and women, and start keeping the count of act of kindness to each other in the family. The one with the highest count be felicitated for reversing the trend and leading the path to justice for girls and women in particular and for everyone in general. The cause for celebration in her words was that ‘ girls, women, parents, communities have begun talking about their violation, they are standing outside police stations, demanding arrest, demanding due diligence...and are demanding accountability’. To escalate this she added that this year two billion of us- men, women, children, elderly, specially able people, people of multiple sexual orientation, the dalits and adivasi must rise for Justice. 

After this the song Tu zinda hai to zindagi……was presented by JG team and then the stage was set ablaze by the energetic and electrifying dance by little girls of Chakvan Primary School, Dharmashala. This had the hall resounding with claps for long and making everybody realize once more that if given a conducive and encouraging environment there is practically nothing which girls cannot do.

After such a stunning performance by our little girls it took a while to set the stage for a serious play by JG team. The act was based on the life story of a woman from one of the neighbouring villages depicting her trial at the hands of her family- both natal and marital, which got compounded by the apathy of the establishment, which nothing but is the reflection of the multi-layered discrimination operational against women in the society.

A song of justice by Katie Gray which she composed during her visit in India only highlighted the mood represented by the above act. The Rising song by Monique Wilson had the gathering committing to themselves to rise for justice. Most notable was the rendering and singing by Tony Stroebel, a South African documentary maker and part of Eve’s team. He started his song by sharing his attitude towards women he had prior to being oriented to the concept of women’s rights. He said-‘earlier in my mind I violated many women, I did not particularly have any respect for women for what they were. I too took them the way as the society generally takes them, despite the fact that I have two sisters and a mother. Though I saw my mother being wronged by my alcoholic father yet it did not warrant any better treatment from me for women. Then there came a moment when I had to decide which way to go- right or wrong. Fortunately I made my decision for the former, hence I am here today in front of you all playing this composition. Before I start I would like to ask men present here if they could relate to what I just shared?’ And a few men responded in affirmation. Then he had the audience spell bound with his performance and asking for more.

And now it was the turn for the most sought after performance of the evening, Eve Ensler reading from her monologue ‘In the Body of Justice’; before that she talked a bit about her work in Congo, formation of VDay Foundation and genesis of OBR campaign. Relating it to the notion of Justice she said that this year the campaign is focused on the issue of justice so that no one- individual or group, is left out in isolation to fight for justice and thus singled out because the war against the prevalent state of impunity and hatred towards women needs to be fought in solidarity and in togetherness. Through her readings from her monologue she beautifully explained the concept of justice by using a convincing imagery wherein her perpetrator was made to suck back all the negativity, pain, sufferings and lost years of joyful experiences which were caused due to him and thus giving way to an affectionate and caring relationship which were her entitlements. Therefore she emphasized that justice and revenge are not the same, and justice is what the survivor sees it as, it necessarily always does not mean bringing the perpetrator/violator to books. Only through love and compassion can we change the world. She hailed upon men to be part of this process of change and campaign, because together we can make the difference.

By using the metaphor of Kali, performances by SPACE, an all women band, reestablished the fact that wrongs cannot be tolerated for eternity, and the time was opportune that we either mend our ways or be perished by this tornado of demand for justice as raised by OBR campaign, where not thousands or lacks of people are raising their voices against violence against women but billions of them are out on the street doing things which they have never done so far to express their positive identity and showing their solidarity with the cause. Therefore it is an invitation to all to join hands in this pressing cause of saying NO TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. And thus the floor broke for dance- the expression of joy and determination of the fact that until the violence against women stops people are not going to rest in peace.

With this Jyoti Seth thanked everyone for their support and co-operation without whom none of it would have been made possible.