Kanyakumari: While the heart breaking pictures of Pradyumna, the 7 years old school boy murdered in his school in Gurugram are still disturbingly fresh in our minds, the one Indian Activist who has been warning us about prevalant and rampant child abuse happening in our midst is taking out an All India Yatra to bring to light the appaling conditions in our country where child safety is concerned.
“The sun rises every morning. But today this morning is different and this sun is different. Today this sun rises to dispel the darkness of fear, hopelessness and shame faced by our children. Today we march to end this,” With these words Nobel Laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, began his month long Bharat Yatra which is expected to be the world’s largest march against the trafficking and sexual abuse of children. Reports of such crimes, tragically, continue to rise in the country.
“India is known for a country where children are being raped, where children are being sold. They are not safe in their schools, they are not safe even in their homes. If one child is in danger, then it means that the whole of India is danger.” Bemoaned Satyarthi.
Over 10 million people from across India are due to take part in the month-long “Bharat Yatra” – or India March – which will end in New Delhi on October 16.
Flagging off the march from Kanyakumari, Satyarthi told crowds of school children, officials and activists it was time to shatter the silence around such crimes.
Figures from the National Crime Records Bureau also show that almost 15,000 children were victims of sexual violence such as rape, molestation and exploitation for pornography in 2015 – up 67 percent from the previous year. More than 9,000 children were reported to have been trafficked in 2016, a 27 percent rise from the previous year, according to government data.
Most are from poor rural families who are lured to cities by traffickers who promise good jobs, but then sell them into slavery as domestic workers, to work in small manufacturing units, farming or pushed into sexual slavery in brothels.
But these figures are just the tip of the iceberg in socially conservative India, say activists, where fear of being blamed, shamed or stigmatised means victims and their families often keep quiet and do not report the abuses they face.
Satyarthi, whose charity Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) has rescued 80,000 enslaved children, said the march was part of a three-year campaign to spread public awareness and push for stronger policies on child protection.
The march participants will travel around 11,000 km (7,000) miles) and cover 22 of 29 states. They will stop in towns and villages, visit schools and colleges and hold events with local officials, police, religious and community leaders.