Today, I declare a war on child sexual abuse and trafficking. Today I am announcing Bharat Yatra, the biggest movement in history to make India safe again for children. I refuse to accept that the innocence, smiles and freedom of our children can keep getting stripped and violated. I refuse to accept that victims and ordinary people live in fear while perpetrators roam free and fearless. These are not ordinary crimes. This is a moral epidemic haunting our nation and the world.
This Bharat Yatra will be launched from Kanyakumari on 11 September, 2017.
Just a few days ago, my wife Sumedha and I met five-year-old Salma (all names changed) in a hospital. She was raped by the van driver on her way back from school. Now, she trembles with fear at the mere mention of school. After a long chat with us, Salma pointed towards a lady doctor and whispered, "I want to be like her. She saved me." In Chandigarh, 13-year-old Rachna was going towards her school on 15 August to celebrate Independence Day. She was stalked, waylaid and raped. Her father asks, "Is this how my daughter and our family will remember Independence Day?" I also happened to meet a man whose 12-year-old son Naveen was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a relative over many months. Feeling degraded and ashamed to speak out, Naveen committed suicide. Today, the man asks, "For how long we will keep sacrificing our children at the sham altars of social stigma and family pride?"
My aim is to inspire and provoke at least 10 million citizens to take the pledge for Surakshit Bachpan-Surakshit Bharat.
Today morning, I met the parents of Gudiya who was gangraped and murdered near Shimla. Talking to them was like staring at a haunted mirror. Each teardrop coming out of their eyes was a stinging indictment of our religions, our culture, our civilisation and our Constitution. The bereaved father told me, "Even you are a father. I pray and hope no father has to do what I did—pick up the naked dead body of my daughter that was riddled with cigarette burns. It was like she had been bitten by ravaging wolves. I couldn't save my daughter. But I am ready to do anything to save other children."
Dear friends, I will leave no stone unturned in my effort to reawaken the slumbering conscience of this nation. For the last many months, I have knocked at innumerable doors. I have personally met the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Union ministers, many chief ministers, parliamentarians, faith leaders, entrepreneurs, judicial officers, child rights commissions, police officers as well as leading lights of education and social reform and they have come forth to support the movement. My aim is to inspire and provoke at least 10 million citizens to take the pledge for Surakshit Bachpan-Surakshit Bharat. We will also collectively demand that our Parliament passes a strong and effective law against trafficking.
I have organised and led many yatras, where millions have joined me and marched alongside. These yatras led to strict national and international laws against child labour. They also led to an amendment to the Constitution that made education a fundamental right. Many thought that I would lead a comfortable retired life after the Nobel Prize. But no my dear friends, I am all set to march again. I call upon you to join Bharat Yatra to make India safe again.