| Bianca Jagger, former wife of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, talks to children at a rally on the Maidan off Shahid Minar on Thursday. Picture by Amit Datta
The International Celebrity Machine has rolled into Calcutta once again, this time in the shape of Bianca Jagger. The activist started her 60-hour visit to the city on Thursday, addressing a walk for children, ending it in a Kalighat red-light area and visiting various Sanlaap projects as part of a promotional tour with Christian Aid.
She doesn’t like being known as Mick Jagger’s ex, and her colours as a socialite of some repute also took a backseat as she “lent her voice” to the kids of Calcutta. But every move the avid human rights ambassador made was caught on the campaign cameras. A film, to be made in time for the December 1 World AIDS Day, was being shot. To be sent to various channels in Britain, and to find a place on the Christian Aid website, it is aimed at getting the funds flowing and people talking.
Bianca’s interest isn’t fleeting, either. A few years ago, she had passed through Calcutta to speak to then chief minister Jyoti Basu after participating in an anti-child labour rally in Delhi. “It wouldn’t be a bad idea this time,” she said, when asked whether she would like to visit successor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
At her first stop of the trip (her third to the city), she made clear her attempt to get the authorities to sit up and listen. She met a bunch of kids in front of Shahid Minar, who had just concluded a protest march against commercial sexual exploitation of children. After telling them how happy she was to meet them, she was quick to pass on the mike.
“I would like to join my voice with yours… Your voices should be heard before mine,” she stressed to the audience of children from all walks of life. “I know that children in India, and Calcutta in particular, are vulnerable to violence and trafficking… I am here to appeal to the chief minister and to the authorities in India to allow children to fulfil their dreams.”
Bianca heard them speak of their hopes, too. Like one girl, from Sanlaap’s shelter home, who asked: “Why are such young girls being trafficked' Can’t the police help' Can’t people come forward to stop the pain'” A petition from the walk will later be sent to the chief minister.
From Shahid Minar, the Christian Aid ambassador for the prevention of HIV/AIDS and her team went to Harkata Goli to speak to women in prostitution. Dressed in a crisp white suit, she kept time with a bunch of young kids of the area walking for their rights on Children’s Day, before moving on to a local ‘club’ where she wanted to interact with some of the women of the area.
Nibbling on a samosa, she had a half-hour-long chat with a couple of women about how they had ended up in the red-light areas, where they were from, what options they had…
The crew then went to Kalighat to meet women inside their homes, to see how they lived. They were filming there till well into the night.
Bianca, who has been noted for her work with environmental issues, human rights and even her campaign for the Bhopal gas victims, will also speak at a seminar on the ‘prevention and protection, care and support’ strategies on HIV/AIDS at the Hyatt Regency on Friday, at 4 pm.
But that is only after visiting the girls at Sneha, the Sanlaap shelter home at Narendrapur for minors rescued from red-light areas. On Saturday morning, Bianca is scheduled to visit Sonagachhi to speak to the women with the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee about their programmes.
On a mission to “create awareness about AIDS around the globe”, Bianca had been to Africa two years ago. This time, Calcutta is her only professional stop for three days of campaigning before she heads off holidaying in India.