Bellevue memorial service pays tribute to 'Nirbhaya'

A candlelight vigil attracted about 35 people Dec. 30 at Bellevue
A candlelight vigil attracted about 35 people Dec. 30 at Bellevue's Downtown Park, to pay tribute to 'Nirbhaya,' the young woman in India who died after being raped. A total of 27 people signed petitions urging Indian government to take urgent action against rapists and make strict laws against such crimes.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Members from different ethnic groups gathered to pay tribute to "Nirbhaya," the New Delhi gang rape victim, at a memorial service on Friday, Jan. 4 at the Westin Hotel in Bellevue.

The attack on the 23-year-old woman, who died of severe internal injuries, provoked a fierce debate across India about the routine mistreatment of females and triggered protests all over the world demanding action and social change.

Attendees at the event commented on the perceived indifference of the country’s ruling elite and its failure to protect women. The participants also put their thoughts into written words, all of which would be sent to the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh.

The event, organized by the Washington State and India Trade Relations Action Committee (WASITRAC), a Seattle based non-profit advocacy group which has been working for a stronger bilateral trade relationship between Washington state and India since 2007.

“Political apathy towards such incidents is a big problem in India,” said Debadutta Dash, a Co-Chair of WASITRAC. “India is largest democracy, but regretfully it has not gone beyond the traditions of thousands of years in which women were inferior to men, and its people and leaders must change that.”

Habib M. Habib, another Co-Chair of WASITRAC, read out a message sent by Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott, which said he was shocked by the crime.

"We as a society cannot tolerate such senseless violence against anyone," McDermott's letter said. "Sadly, sexual assault remains commonplace in many parts of the world. At a certain point, we have to look at violent crimes against women in the eye and say 'no more.' I hope this tragedy will be a catalyst for such change.”

Dr. Chandra Bhanu Satpathy, a noted scholar, philanthropist and humanitarian leader  who recently visited Seattle and was honored by the City of Seattle and the Washington State, was concerned about the increasing atrocities towards women. In a message, he said: "The rape of any woman anywhere in the world is the worst incidence of barbarism and hence is a crime against humanity. It has to be condemned in unequivocal terms. What has happened in India is a total dishonor of womanhood the world over."

Washington state Rep. Marcie Maxwell, whose 41st Legislative District includes part of Bellevue,  attended the service and expressed her condolence for "Nirbhaya" and concern for the safety of women in India as well as other part of the world.

The memorial service ended with a moment of silence.

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