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Monday, January 23, 2012

From darkness to the light

‘Nai Roshni’ can be literally translated as ‘New Light’. This is the name of Adnan Jabbar’s Social Action Project. Adnan’s project is based on two parts, but the underlying theme is the same: highlighting acts of violence and educating people about the causes of aggression, and the consequences of violent acts.

The first part of the Social Action Project highlighted acts of violence against women. The group specifically chose to address the heinous act of acid attacks. According to the group, there are 399 new acid burn victims every five months in Punjab alone. Acid throwing incidents make up 5% – 7% of all violent crime in the region.

Flyers about these incidents and the need for their prevention were printed. The flyers were distributed by the group members amongst the residents of their neighbourhoods and to the local population.

With the help of the faculty and students of the Multan College of Arts the group organised an arts competition. The competition was a success, with participants turning in paintings and graphical renderings of the damaging and irreversible effects of the crime.

The group members also organized and participated in a theatrical performance of a play they wrote about an acid burn victim. The play opened at a local shelter for homeless women.

Adnan and his group members did not limit their Social Action Project to the city, but also visited a near-by village to get their message across. They organized awareness sessions in which they talked about the importance of curbing such incidents. 17 – 18 heads of households publically promised that they would not engage in acts of violence against women, and would promote non-violence. To show their support to the group they hung signs on their front doors which read: ‘This is a violence free village’.

Next on the group’s agenda was Police brutality, specifically incidents of torture by the Police. The group organized two workshops to which they invited officers from the city Police. The workshop was attended by a few officials, including the Superintendent of Police, and a Jailer. The motive of the group members was to hold a frank dialogue with the Police to come up with ways to reduce incidents of violence in Police custody.

According to Adnan, there was some progress made in these workshops but some participants also responded in a defensive and negative manner. Reducing violent behaviour is a process, and admitting and accepting fault is the first step. Adnan feels that before violence can be curbed, the causes of violent action need to be examined too. One phrase that he likes to repeat at these workshops is: ‘You are all victims of frustration’.