Mohammed Shahid (2016), a 20-year-old second year B.A. in Geography student of Jamia Millia Islamia and a cycling enthusiast, plans to cycle the length of India from Kanyakumari in the south, to Kashmir in the north, on his own to raise awareness about child sexual abuse.
According to Shahid, a native of Kerala, the campaign will start on 3rd of June from Kanyakumari and will end in Srinagar on 12th of July, crossing through Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, and Punjab, covering a distance of about 4,200 km. The plan is to cover a distance of about 100 km everyday for about 42 days in total.
This 42 day cycling trek will cross through 96 districts of the country with scheduled awareness activities in selected cities. Awareness activities include distributing pamphlets, visiting schools, and performing street plays to convince children not to keep quiet if they are being abused.
On being asked how and why did he choose the issue of child sexual abuse for his awareness campaign, Shahid told Jamia Journal through a written statement:
“To meet my day to day expenses, I work part time in several NGOs by helping them with their data collection and field works. A couple of months ago, I got an opportunity to work for a reputed NGO in Delhi (Dedicated for street children) in their project ‘children’s conflict with law’. As a part of this work, I visited two juvenile homes in Delhi and I interviewed more than hundred inmates there. When I spoke to them in-person, I realized that 99% of them were victims of sexual assault, either early in their life or by the officials, guards and the other inmates of juvenile homes.
I was left frozen, and it was an eye-opening incident in my life. … There have been many instances in my life when I have personally witnessed many cases of child sexual abuse in several places like public transport, public places, moral study centres, schools etc. I was able to relate these very well from the narration of children in the juvenile homes and realised agonisingly that many children in our country are under threat of child abuse.
In spite of having several laws enforced by Indian judicial system and a good number of organizations working for the betterment and protection of children from child sexual abuse, the number of child sexual crimes is still increasing at an alarming rate. This points to the fact that system is not functioning effectively. One of the probable reasons could be that the awareness about or the benefits of such laws are not reaching all classes of people in our country.”
Shahid’s upcoming journey has already got some coverage in the mainstream press. The Hindu newspaper, ran a story on him and his campaign in the May 29 edition.
The Hindu writes:
“The tedious journey that Shahid is attempting to complete requires high levels of fitness, especially with the hot sun beating down on him. However, Shahid says he has been practising for a while as he cycles from Jamia to Jawaharlal Nehru University every day. In fact, he has even peddled his way to Ambala a couple of times over weekends.
Travelling solo with only a backpack, Shahid is upbeat about his upcoming journey and hopes that his endeavour will make a difference in some way to the lives of children silently enduring abuse and give them a voice to speak up.”
For those who are interested in following his journey, Shahid told Jamia Journal that he will be posting regular updates of his journey, on his campaign facebook page called, “Raise Your Voice Against Child Sexual Abuse.”
Jamia Journal wishes Mohammed Shahid all the best for his journey.