A Bloomfield Hills teenager is launching a movement that he hopes will end a culture that normalizes, excuses, tolerates and may even condone the rape and sexual assault of children in India.
A first generation Indian-American born to a chemical engineer who owns his own alternative energy company and a filmmaker, Rohun Dhar’s life is better than many Americans’ and certainly better than most in his parents’ homeland.
He’s blessed, he told The Detroit News. He’s privileged.
“I’m blessed to have all these resources, and it makes no sense not to maximize the potential,” said Dhar, 17, a senior at the exclusive Detroit Country Day School. “A lot of us go to a privileged school, and enjoy a privileged life, but some are not really doing anything with it.”
He’s exploring an ugly world that produces headlines like these:
- In Case That Transfixed a Nation, Court in India Convicts Four Men of Rape
- 5 Indian Men Area Convicted in Gang Rapes at Abandoned Mill at Mumbai
- The Unspeakable Truth About Rape in India
And statistics like these:
- More than one-third of Indian women will be raped or sexually assaulted or raped in their lifetimes
- More than 7,200 children, including infants, are raped every year in India, where one in three rapes in involves a child.
Dhar’s campaign to change things is called “Sachi Baath” – or “real talk.”
It involves street plays that he writes, composes and directs, then takes to remote villages across India, where he talks about a taboo topic – particularly so in patriarchal India – through song and dance, something he says all Indians can relate to.
After the performances, he would pass the microphone around, not so much hoping to pry loose some of the secrets, but open a dialogue.
Some shared. Others didn't.
Dhar knows opening a dialogue will take time.
He hopes that a video of his street plays last summer will open eyes and ears – and perhaps even the lips of people who have suffered silently.
The team includes his mother, Shailja Dhar, and sister, Raeshem Nijhon, who served as producers. His uncle Vidhu Vinod Chopra of Mumbai, a film director and producer, will serve as executive producer for his future street plays. His credentials include the 1978 documentary “An Encounter With Faces” that was nominated for an Academy Award.
Chopra said he was not only impressed with the quality of his nephew’s street plays, but also his relentless commitment to initiate public discussion on the topic of child abuse.
His parents are less surprised. His father, Subhash Dhar, said his son has “stepped beyond the normal boundaries of academic accomplishments to fight against and increase awareness of child abuse in our society.” His mother said she saw “amazing growth in Rohun from the time he started the project until he finished.”
“The videos we have up on YouTube work only to spread awareness of the project, and are not necessarily built with a message or audience in mind,” he told The Detroit News. “... Sachi Baath itself is directed towards not just those of the Indian community, but to all others as well.”