A song for a song

What occurred in December last year was not the first gangrape in India, or the last. But what was it about that ghastly night that brought thousands of people across class, caste and gender out to the streets, demanding justice? The answer came in the reports of how the young woman fought her captors. Her fight to survive, and her defiance in the face of unimaginable brutality, made us realise that she would not be forgotten because we would tell her story. We would celebrate her courage, her will to survive, her fearlessness and her defiance. We would remind ourselves that she was more than a gangrape victim. That she was a fighter. That women are more than bodies that can be violated.

So, we decided to write a song not to mourn her death, but to celebrate her spirit. And thus the song, "Maa nee Meri" was created by Swaang (available at http://goo.gl/ADFsa). The song was created as a protest song, as a song of defiance, addressed to the mother, not just as a mother, but as a woman, a daughter, a wife, a sister and a victim. The idea was to begin by problematising the culture of silent suffering and sacrifice that is valorised, romanticised and idealised in India as a strength inherent to women. We also questioned a culture of parenting that teaches fear, submissiveness, obedience and precaution as virtues, thereby silently transferring the onus of a crime onto the victim. This girl would not remain silent, she would speak out, fight, drown, but not swim obediently with the tide of patriarchal norms ("Maa nee meri mitti moorat, main nee goonga patthar banana").

The song looked beyond the perpetrators and rapists as those obviously responsible for such crimes. It laid responsibility on the larger public, on citizens, families, lawmakers, law keepers, keepers of faith and morality. It indicted all of us, "un chhey mein shaamil tum bhi thhey, yeh kaam toh hai hamdardon ka (You were amongst those six, this is the doing of well wishers)", for being callous, complacent and comfortable in the security of our drawing rooms, for thinking "better safe than sorry", for not fighting. We also tried to reflect a historical imagination about violence against women in our country and thus made references to 1984, 1992 and 2002; an acknowledgement that at each historical moment of public turmoil and conflict, women were victimised.

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