Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi on Tuesday, September 12, set out on a march across the country to mobilise action against child abuse and trafficking of children. His yatra will start from the southernmost tip of the country, Kanyakumari and passing through Kashmir, the Bharat Yatra will come to an end in New Delhi, on October 16.
This 11,000-kilometre ‘yatra’ will tour 22 states, starting from coastal city Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. “Our silence is breeding more violence. That is why the Bharat Yatra is the beginning of an all-out war on rape, abuse and trafficking,” Satyarthi said.
Satyarthi had won the Nobel prize in 2014 for his struggle for the rights of children. He launched the Yatra from Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari. Flagging off the rally commemorated the anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s address at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. PM Narendra Modi extended his support to the yatra and his message was read out during its launch.
This campaign, however, comes days after the killing of a seven-year old Gurugram schoolboy who allegedly resisted sexual abuse and the alleged rape of a 5-year-old girl in a Gurugram school. These incidents evoked major outrage across the country. Satyarthi has been campaigning for safety and security of children across the globe for the past 36 years, said, each time a child was in danger, it poses as a danger for the entire country.
On speaking to The Indian Express, he said, “Bharat Yatra is to make India safe for our children…Make no mistake; this will be decisive war. It will be waged to reclaim the morality of the Indian soul.” He further added that his campaign aims to bring an end to all forms of child abuse. “My war to end all forms of abuse against children against starts today. Are you with me?” he asked the thousands gathered at the venue.
According to a report by The NDTV, he also said, “The age of rape victims is getting lower and even more horrific as the victims are being murdered, the time for talk and preaching is over,” he said, adding that he himself is unable to look into the eyes of the victims and their families. Upon asked on the Gorakhpur tragedy, he said, “these deaths are a massacre and just because it has been happening it cannot be allowed to go on.”
He went to narrate the ordeal of the father of a young girl who was gang-raped and murdered in Shimla recently. Mr Satyarthi claimed, the girl’s father told him that his daughter’s body had 50 bite marks on it. The 63-year-old social activist said that such cases of child abuse are a slap across the faces of our culture, religion and constitution.
A report by Zee News said that he told the reporters earlier, “I refuse to accept that the innocence, smiles and freedom of our children can keep getting stripped and raped, child abuse is not ordinary crimes. This is a moral epidemic haunting our nation. Our children are not safe in their homes, schools or neighbourhood or anywhere and the perpetrators roam freely. We just cannot wait and watch.”
According to him, though the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act is a good law, the conviction rate under it is just 4%. Over 90% cases lodged under this act are pending in the court. It will take another 40 years to clear a large number of such cases pending in the courts in some states. He further added that every eight minute a child goes missing and is basically trafficked for sexual abuse, prostitution, forced labour, slavery, child marriage and organ transplantation.
“If we have to make a ‘New India’, which we aspire and are committed to, then our girls and boys should be safe in their home, schools and their neighbourhood. ‘New India’ would be one where all children are safe, free and educated and this movement is for that,” he said.
This occasion was attended by Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan and noted music director Ilayiaraaja.