‘Society must go beyond candlelight vigils for long-term change’

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New Delhi: Candlelight vigils provide people a way to vent their anger peacefully against heinous crimes such as rape, but the society must go beyond these symbolic protests for a sustained change, communication experts say.
Their remarks come as two disturbing rape cases shook the nation recently. People came out on streets in Delhi and other parts of the country to demand justice for the victims.
In Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district, an eight-year-old girl was brutally gangraped and killed in January. Her body was found a week after she disappeared from near her home and investigators say she was drugged and repeatedly raped before her killers crushed her head with stones.
In Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh, a 17-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a legislator of the ruling BJP in the state, when she had gone to meet him at his residence, seeking a job.
Her father died on April 9 in judicial custody with the post-mortem examination report suggesting serious injuries on his body.
Both the cases have raised serious questions over women’s safety. The Kathua case, particularly, reignited the memories of the ‘Nirbhaya’ case.
In December 2012, a 23-year-old female physiotherapy intern was gangraped and tortured by six men in a moving bus in a South Delhi neighbourhood. She died two weeks after the incident at a hospital in Singapore, where she had been airlifted for emergency treatment.
Then, too, people had come out on streets in massive numbers and organised candlelight vigils across the country.
“Crimes such as these make people feel helpless. Candlelight vigils may not have much long-term effect, but what do people do. Such protests do at least help vent out their rage and demand a change,” Rajkumar Jha, consultant with a leading branding firm, said.
“But to achieve and sustain any societal change, we need to go beyond candlelight vigils and work seriously on bringing those changes,” Jha said at a symposium – Beyond the Present – hosted by Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication in Delhi yesterday.
Vigils do sort of help people achieve catharsis in hours of great emotional turmoil, he added.
A leading communication expert, Jha has worked on campaigns targeted at the rural community on diverse subjects such as sanitation, safe water, pulse polio and HIV awareness.
“Candlelight vigils do manifest the rage of people. But to take that forward towards bringing social change, we need to look beyond symbolic protests and work on bringing actual societal change on a long-term basis,” another communication expert, who attended the event but did not wish to be named, said.

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