Artists protest against rapes, oppose death penalty

New Delhi, April 28 (IANS) The national capital Sunday witnessed a rare event as artists and civil society members came together to protest against rising insidents of rapes and to register opposition to death penalty through poetry, discussion and songs.

Those present at the event ‘Violence no more’ included personalities like Shabana Azmi, Usha Uthup, Syeda Hameed and Binayak Sen.

The participants pitched for a case against the death penalty and paid tribute to late Chief Justice J.S. Verma who played a key role in drafting a harsh anti-rape law.

“Violence against women has the tacit approval of the society all over the world. It begins right from the time a foetus begins to breathe her first,” said Shabana Azmi, actor and social activist, as she recited verses from Kaifi Azmi’s “Aurat”, Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s “Bol” and Farhan Akhtar’s “Little Girl”.

“It is important to understand this is not merely a women’s issue but a reflection of us as a society and nation at large. And the responsibility rests with each one of us – men and women alike – to initiate change,” Azmi said.

Voicing resentment against the rising cases of violence against women and minors, Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed recited three poems of Pakistani poet Zehra Nigah which reflected the pain of women who suffered violence.

She pitched for a commitment from all stakeholders of society to stand up against such injustices.

Human rights lawyer Colin Gonsalves opposed the death penalty, saying that it would not solve the problem of rape and murders.

“The alternative of life imprisonment up to death is as severe a sentence as the death sentence. If the people seek death penalty as a punishment or maybe as revenge, it doesn’t reflect a healthy psyche of a society,” he asserted.

Gonsalves sought radical reforms “by purging police of all criminal elements”.

The gathering also paid tribute to former Chief Justice Verma, the chief architect of the new anti-rape law.

“Both as a judge and as a citizen, Chief Justice Verma stood taller than others in the fight against violence against women and girls,” said activist and National Advisory Council Member Farah Naqvi.

Feminist Kamla Bhasin said, “This war by some against women and children is becoming an epidemic because we have been silent too long about misogyny, patriarchy, greed based economic paradigm, irresponsible and corrupt institutions. We need to fight at all these fronts simultaneously and in solidarity”.

Singer Usha Uthup made the crowd read out a pledge: “We will not tolerate or commit violence.”

She also presented songs such as “Stand by me”, “I will survive” and “Kolaveri di”, among others.

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