Maher RallyMany of you may have read about the woman who perished just recently, from medical complications after being gang raped in New Delhi. We hesitate to write about this, as we are not wanting to reinforce negative ideas about India, but sadly it is true that as women gain momentum economically and socially here, there is a backlash that has meant increased aggression and violence towards women. Tragically, there is little police accountability, and many who commit crimes against women escape without chastisement.  Women who are assaulted here bear the brunt of the crime in the original assault as well as the subsequent shame and  shunning that often occurs.

Yesterday we spent the better part of the day painting signs with slogans related to these issues; when enough signs in English had been created, Jillian and I painted in Marathi (the local language ) in fluid strokes foreign, yet beautiful. Working with the older youth leaders and following their directions was just one way to witness the significant role they play in the daily operation of Maher. Today the community here, from various Maher sites, marched into the small local villages, chanting about the violence needing to stop, and drawing in sympathetic spectators along the way. The march through sun and heat along dusty roads culminated in a gathering at a stage, where local community and government leaders gave speeches.  The older students performed educational “awareness skits” about subjects related to violence against girls and women. While we could not understand the language, the depth of expression and fine acting were so clear and moving. We also knew that some former victims of abuse themselves acted in the role play, adding a dimension of power and pathos to our witnessing.

Role Play

Young students milled throughout the audience assembled around the rally and collected about 1,000 signatures of support for the protection of girls and women in this society.  We were moved to see the courage of the students functioning with such competence in all aspects of this march and rally. Maher communities held prayer and meditation circles the evening before the rally, and spirits were high in taking action with issues so relevant to Maher. It is such a gift to be here and to participate in just one of many Maher public actions in the name of justice. Maher works lovingly with each individual, and has perpetually in mind and heart the direct actions that will heal not only the individual, but the larger ills in the cultural and political landscape of India.

Died of Rape

We piled onto a bus with many children at the culmination of the rally, and returned to the wondrous fabric of this all inclusive “family home,” where about 200 children, just at this site, are cared for and care for one another in countless ways. The love here is palpable and expressed though shining eyes and smiles, gestures of sharing, and hugs and a deep wish manifesting each and every day for the comfort and well being of all. The Indian way of calling all women “Didi” or “Aunty”, and men “uncle,” reflects a larger sense of interconnectedness; the atmosphere rings with these everyday terms of recognizing deep kinship, beyond the bounds of biological family.  The coupling of social and political activism arising from such a strong spiritually enacted base is an inspiration  and worth emulating in our own communities.

Children meditating