Students bowed their heads over the light of flickering candles in a moment of silence at a vigil held for New Delhi rape victims Thursday evening on Upper Sproul Plaza.
The vigil featured student speakers addressing a somber audience about women’s rights in India. The victims were honored with an a cappella rendition of “Amazing Grace” before the candlelit memorial ended with a moment of silence.
ASUC Senator Mihir Deo collaborated with the Hindu Students Council, the Indian Students Association and the South Asian student group Indus in organizing the event to pay respects to the rape victims and to show support to those currently fighting for change in India.
“Right now, there is a battle of the heart and mind in India,” Deo said. “We are standing in solidarity to make sure this isn’t thrown under the blanket and that things change in India.”
The vigil was held to commemorate the victims of a series of gang rapes that occurred in India last December. The high-profile rape and death of a 23-year-old Delhi student sparked protests in India calling for justice and political reform for the protection of rape victims.
Prithvi Guruprasad, a fourth-year Berkeley student and member of Indus, approached Deo with the idea as a way to spread awareness about the situation of women’s rights in India.
“This event should be considered in a wider context than just the one rape incident in Delhi to the broader issue of rapes in India and how implicit discrimination against women and stigmas have the effect of allowing such crimes against women to continue,” Guruprasad said.
Deo hopes to introduce a bill to the ASUC to have a yearly day of remembrance for the victims and to encourage discussion of the issues.
“This takes generations of change,” Deo said. “But we can reach out to our own families and change attitudes, and it starts here.”
Vishruth Venkat, a second-year UC Berkeley international student, was in India when the event took place.
“I saw some reactions that were brilliant and some that were shocking,” Venkat said. “I was encouraged by the people who came by tonight and were able to identify with the underlying humanity, and I thought that was really special.”