People protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens in New Delhi on Feb. 2. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)
A Catholic social center in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal has joined other agencies to push for women’s equality and to show solidarity with people protesting against the amended citizenship law.
Some 6,000 students from Loreto College and various schools gathered at the Loreto campus in Kolkata to sing, dance and mark the “Rising,” the sixth celebration in the city of the One Billion Rising (OBR) global movement.
The event was part of the OBR program jointly organized by Loreto nuns in association with the Kolkata Municipal Corporation on Jan. 31 at the city’s Allen Park.
“When we talk about women’s empowerment, it is also our duty to oppose atrocities against minorities and the marginalized as well as anyone who is feeling insecure under the current circumstances,” Sister Monica Suchiang, chief of the city’s OBR program, told UCA News.
Sister Suchiang said this year’s OBR slogan, "Rise, Resist, Unite," also included protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) following a resolution to this effect taken at the OBR’s Delhi headquarters.
“The concept of OBR is based on the fact that one out of every three women worldwide is subjected to violence at least once in her lifetime,” she said.
The OBR organizer in the city, Kolkata Mary Ward Social Center, is a unit of the Loreto order and this year it collaborated with Loreto Elliot Road to bring the Rising to life. “Every year, one Loreto school, along with the Mary Ward center, carries the baton,” the nun added.
OBR is a global movement started by women’s rights activist Eve Ensler in 2012 in response to UN data that showed that one billion females across the world face or live with the threat of violence.
In India, OBR is headquartered in Delhi. Its partners in different cities organize programs themed on topics adopted for the year.
Though the theme changes every year, the focus remains on violence against women, with famous singers, schools and activists participating to show solidarity with the cause this year. Given the nationwide movement against the new citizenship law and NRC, the organizers also held a panel discussion.
“OBR is a celebration of womanhood. We sing paeans to the feminine spirit, which is indomitable,” Samata Bali, advocacy coordinator of the Mary Ward center, told UCA News.
She said the main point of the program was to address the challenges of equality, adding that inequality transcended gender issues and encompassed discrimination against religious minorities and communities.
The speakers at the program likened the current Indian political situation to fascism, she said.
“At OBR, people are taught to respect women, but as things stand now, there is an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty in the entire civil society,” Nandini Bhattacharjee, a teacher at Loreto Elliot Road who coordinated the program, told the Times of India.
“OBR is a natural platform of protest and we are using it as an umbrella to include minorities and their fears. Let OBR be the platform where we can preach respect for the constitution.”
Shane Calvert, a member of the legislative assembly representing the Anglo-Indian community, said: “We have to resist, rise and speak in one voice against different forms of injustice and inequality that are being meted out to us. Hopefully we will be able to create a change-making dialogue.”