PATNA — In the wake of huge protests over the Kathua and Unnao rape cases, Bihar Women’s Network, an umbrella organisation of women’s groups, undertook a 72-hour-long fast at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan to demand security for the daughters of India.
The fast started at 6 pm on April 17 and ended at 6.10 pm on April 20, after a brief presentation by Indian Peoples’ Theatre Association (IPTA).
Catholic religious women also joined more than 25,000 people of Bihar to undertake 72 hours of fast.
Nine women and men fasted continuously during April 18-20 while others joined them in relay fast, Rupesh, (goes by one name) of the Bihar forum of ‘Right to Food,’ one of the organizers of the program, reportedly said.
Politicians from different parties and the administration also attended the program,which, Rupesh claimed, has helped awaken the people of Bihar in many ways. “Our hope is that the government also wakes up to bring law and order in our nation,” he added.
Rupesh said the Bihar Women’s Network and the members of ‘Right to Food’ forum are organizing protests at various parts of Bihar demanding accountability from the government machinery and the people’s elected representative.
Neelu Devi, convener of Bihar Women Network, another NGO, termed as irony that the government on one hand coins slogans such as ‘save daughters, teach daughters’, while on the other protects the perpetrators of crime against the same daughters.”
She stressed gender sensitization to create awareness in society about the plight of women. She wants the government to introduce it as a subject in school curriculum. Parents have to treat sons and daughters equally in the family, only then will society will respect women and girls as equals, she added.
Nazareth Sister Leena Padam, a social activist who joined the fast, noted a rise in the crimes against women and young girls, giving the impression they are not as equal as men in the Indian society.
“Women’s voices are silenced. The patriarchal mind-set overpowers us. It is sad that we are chained and we cannot be independent, self-reliant and free in the Indian society,” the Nazareth nun bemoaned.
Present at the program was a mother with her minor daughter from Jehanabad town who was raped by her teacher in a government school. She said she joined the struggle with the hope that their involvement would prevent further rape and murder of another girl in India.
The father of a minor girl, who was kidnapped from a village in Rohtas district on March 6 last also attended the event. She was raped and her mutilated body was recovered on March 8––International Women’s Day. Yet no one has been arrested.
The general secretary of Janata Dal (United), an alliance partner of the saffron party, Shyam Razak, also arrived at the venue a few minutes before the activists broke their fast on April 20.
The CPI-(ML) MLA Mehboob Ali also joined the event and questioned the silence of Nitish Kumar over Kathua and Unnao incidents.
Some male social activists also took part, but their main duty was to make the arrangements and provide security at the venue.
(with inputs from media reports)