India Gang-Rape Anniversary Marked By Nationwide Tributes

Singer Sona Mohapatra (center), with lyricist Swanand Kirkire (left), at the start of the memorial procession tracing the fatal route taken by Delhi gang-rape victim Jyoti Singh Pandey last December.

Leading artists and Bollywood talent unite for memorial events across India, including a mass procession along the route taken by the gang-rape victim in New Delhi last December.

The horrific gang rape that took place on the night of Dec. 16, 2012, in New Delhi shocked India, unleashing furious protests and a speedy trial against the culprits, who were given the death sentence in September. On Monday, exactly a year after the night that led to the death of 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh Pandey, a memorial event was organized in the city. The culmination of a weeklong series of events that began on Dec. 10, the final tribute mapped the route that Pandey took with her friend on the fateful night they were brutally attacked in a moving bus.

The Jurrat ("To Dare") Campaign was co-organized by Swaang, a Mumbai-based theater and protest band whose members include actors, writers, music directors, musicians and producers from the film industry. The campaign also was organized by Majma, an emergent collective of diverse artists and activists. It was supported by various organizations including Oxfam India and Amnesty International India, among others.

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The event started outside the South Delhi mall where Pandey and her male friend came out of a multiplex after seeing Life of Pi and looked for transport to head home. Swaang members were joined at the location by leading music artists, including Sona Mohapatra and Swanand Kirkire, as about 200 activists and students mapped the route carrying posters and banners. The campaign concluded with a memorial concert by the artists. Organizers said they were denied permission by authorities to mount a mobile concert on a trailer along the duo's route.

“This has been a very overwhelming experience for all of us. We’ve tried to cover as many aspects of this gender violence and sexual crime debate,” said Swaang member and actress Swara Bhaskar, who starred in the Bollywood hit Ranjhaana. “Jyoti’s fight last year was an inspiration for us all and Jurrat was an effort to keep alive her spirit,” she added. 

“Delhi is coming together to heal its wounds and to take stock as to how much safer women have become here since that dark evening a year ago. I hope I can contribute,” added popular singer Rabbi Shergill, known for blending traditional folk music with contemporary rock. His credits include the hit track “Challa” from last year's Bollywood blockbuster Jab Tak Hai Jaan, featuring superstar Shahrukh Khan.

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“The meaning of Jurrat is to 'dare,' that's why I am here; we are daring to come out and tell people this is enough,” added well-known lyricist and writer Kirkire.

“Music as a means of original expression and protest has played a huge role in shaping the events in modern history and I have been able to stand for my gender, stake claim for my rightful place in society and demand for an existence without fear, via my songs on stage in the Jurrat concert,” said popular singer Mohapatra. Her credits include tracks featured in films such as Delhi Belly and last year's hugely popular TV show Satyamev Jayate, hosted by superstar Aamir Khan, which tackled various social issues.

Meanwhile, street plays and candlelight vigils were held in cities across India, including Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore. Extensive media coverage in leading newspapers and by top TV networks focused on whether women's security had improved a year after the Delhi incident.

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Figures released by Delhi Police revealed a shocking reality: reports quoted Delhi Police's Special Commissioner for Crime Dharmendra Kumar stating that there were 1,472 rapes reported in the capital this year (until Nov. 30), compared with 642 in 2012. The number of complaints of molestation rose to 3,182 from 612 in 2012.

The situation in Mumbai also was alarming: Authorities stated there were 338 cases of rape reported in 2013 compared to 193 last year, while the number of crimes against women increased from 1,390 in 2012 to 2,607 this year.

In August, Mumbai was shocked by the gang rape of a young photojournalist who was assaulted by five men while she was on assignment taking pictures at an abandoned factory. A male colleague who accompanied her also was attacked.