Remember! – A letter to Bandhavi Children

Dear children at Bandhavi, and members of the Board, staff, family and friends, who stand with the children

December 10th is Human Rights Day. The theme for Human Rights Day 2023 is “Freedom, Equality and Justice for All”. We have been celebrating this day as Bandhavi Day.

I was delighted to see colourful pictures, telling vibrant stories. These are valiant stories. Your mothers are warriors of love. It is because of their love, fortitude and commitment that you experience a joyful and creative life. It was wonderful to see and read about Ajji, Smt. Yamunavva Yamanurappa Koppal, President, Hirebidnal Grama Panchayat who was your chief guest. 

Why did Visthar take the risk? Very simple. Every Indian citizen has taken an oath on the Constitution of India; particularly the preamble which promises equality, freedom, dignity and fellowship as a way of life. Remember. Remember all who have gone before us, whose life and work led to our Constitution. 
I hope all of you felt proud about being a ‘Vistharite’ and a member of the Bandhavi community. I still remember the day 17 years ago when 30 of your ‘akkas’ arrived on our campus. Visthar did not have enough money to feed, clothe, and educate them for more than a month. This is our history. Remember.

Your mothers trusted us and we tried to return that trust by caring for you. In the early years, we had a newsletter that I compiled and edited. It was called Sambrama. It contained many stories of your Akkas, their dreams and aspirations. I remember many stories which included the mention of ‘kasa’. Very moving stories. Yes, many children grew up on garbage heaps, breathing foul air, cutting themselves by kasa that is not sorted. While you demand your rights as children, guaranteed in the Constitution and other international documents, you must become aware of your duties. Duties to people in your village but more importantly the duty towards the earth: the trees that provide shade, rain that waters our vegetables, plants and the sun that gives us warmth. The earth and its bounty are God’s gift to us. In like manner, we should become God’s gift to the earth. This is the reason Visthar celebrates Environment Day. Yes through the Bhoomi Habba. Remember.

I am happy that Visthar could play a role in creating a safe and clean environment for you to grow up. As you enjoy this, I remind you of what I have said to your Akkas. Each of you will truly be free only when the devadasi practice, bonded labour, child marriage etc. is totally smashed. Our freedom and dignity lies in the freedom and dignity of all.

I remember a line in a song that I used to sing. ‘Freely, freely you have received, freely, freely give’. Whether it is freedom, the Constitution, safe and clean spaces, a caring community; you have received much and the only way to say thank you is for you to share it with others. For this to happen, several have worked diligently and have made /are making sacrifices. Whatever work you might do, my prayers and wishes for each of you is that you will grow to be confident, creative, courageous and compassionate young people and adults. Bandhavi is the training space for this. I am sure the adults around you are grooming you, keeping in mind the 4 C’s.

Jai Bheem, and Jai Hind.

– David Selvaraj


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