Imphal/Aizawl, Feb. 14: They came, they sang and they danced. They were victims of domestic violence, relatives of rape victims, professional singers, film personalities and the common people. But their dance was not a merry one, for protest was on their minds.
They turned up on Valentine's Day today at Wangkhei and Palace Gate, both in Imphal East, to support One Billion Rising ' a worldwide campaign to end violence against women and the girl child.
The two simultaneous events were organised by NGOs of Imphal.
"We have joined the global campaign because the incidence of crimes against women is very high in Manipur and India in general," said Sobita Mangsatabam, co-convenor of the women's committee of United NGO Mission, Manipur, the main organiser at the Wangkhei programme.
Thirty-eight-year-old Takhellambam Ibetombi Devi from Imphal East was one of the participants. A teenaged neighbour raped her six-year-old daughter in September last year. "My daughter is still in a state of shock and she suffers from fear psychosis. The rapist was freed on bail. All rapists should be punished promptly to stop such crimes," she said.
Naorem Thoibi is a victim of domestic violence. She married a Muslim boy and her husband drove her out after taking a second wife. She was beaten and brutalised for 15 years.
"I am now staying at a shelter home, run by Women Action for Development, with my three children. Earlier, I used to cry. Finally, I decided to stand up and fight. Now I am getting some maintenance money from my husband. I want to tell all victims of crimes against women to stop crying and stand up," Thoibi said.
At the Wangkhei programme, protesters formed a human chain and shouted, "enough is enough" and "end violence against women". They also sang "we shall overcome". Children from various shelter homes presented a traditional dance programme. Ranbir Thouna and singer Uttam were also there. Later, a candle-lit vigil was held.
Young boys and girls attended the other programme held at Palace Gate road. Singers Ranbir Thouna, Hamom Sadananda and Akhu Chingambam attended. Men and women danced to Akhu's songs. Thabal Chongba, a traditional dance form of the Meities, was also presented.
In Aizawl too, the citizens protested against violence on women and children in their unique style, with music and concerts.
Several organisations spread awareness about this crucial issue, including People United for Music with a Purpose (Pump), an organisation of the state's musicians, the Mizoram branch of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), supported by the Social Media Club, Guwahati.
The main function was organised by Pump and the Guwahati Social Media at Chanmari Hall was sponsored by the North East Network, the only feminist organisation in the region and the Aizawl District Legal Services Authority.
The function was supported by popular bands of the state, including Even Flow, Tribal Power, Cold Embrace, Victor and Friends, Blue Wave, The Prophets, Atari Mina and Commora, who belted out head-bangers with a social cause.
The pledge-taking was led by the chairperson of the State Commission for Women, Lalnipuii: "Don't accept that the status quo is the change and speak out whenever there is violence against women and children, make it your issue." This was seconded by Remliani and Lalsupuii of Aiko.
"For the first time, women from all walks of life and different women's organisations have come together for this cause. Its very encouraging," said Lalrosangi, president of YWCA.
More than 500 youths of the city donated blood at Aizawl civil hospital to mark Valentine's Day. (See G1)