'Child rape and sexual abuse have become a moral epidemic that haunts our nation and we can no longer remain silent spectators.'
On September 11, 1893, Swami Vivekananda began his famous speech in Chicago at the World Parliament of Religions with the words 'My brothers and sisters of America'.
On Monday, September 11, 124 years later, Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, standing on the rock that Swami Vivekananda meditated on in Kanyakumari, started his speech with the words 'My brothers and sisters of India', before setting off on a march across the country to mobilise action against sexual abuse and trafficking of children..
Satyarthi took a ferry along with hundreds of students and members of his foundation sporting bright yellow T-shirts that said 'Safe Children, Safe Country'.
Speaking to the media ahead of starting out, he said, "I am standing in a land of saints and scholars like Thiruvalluvar who told us to live with compassion. I am standing on the rock where Vivekananda was inspired."
"I am starting my yatra from this energy-charged land."
"This land which has waves from the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Today the waves are marching with us to support our fight against child sexual abuse and child trafficking."
He was accompanied by Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan, who is also the MP from the Kanyakumari, and District Collector Sajjan Singh Chavan.
Kicking off from the southernmost tip of India, Satyarthi's Bharat Yatra will wind up in New Delhi on October 16.
The yatra, Satyarthi said, will cover 11,000 kilometres across 22 states, and would take off from five different places, including Guwahati, Srinagar and Chennai, and will culminate in the national capital.
The Nobel Laureate's yatra comes days after the killing of a seven-year old Gurgaon schoolboy and the rape of a 5-year-old girl in a Delhi school, which demonstrate the lack of safety that increasingly surrounds childhood.
"Child rape and sexual abuse have become a moral epidemic that haunts our nation and we can no longer remain silent spectators. Our silence is breeding more violence. That is why the Bharat Yatra is the beginning of an all-out war on rape, abuse and trafficking," Satyarthi said.
"The Bharat Yatra is to make India safe again for our children... Make no mistake, this will be a decisive war; a war to reclaim the morality of the Indian soul. My war to end all forms of abuse against children starts today. Are you with me?" he asked the crowds gathered at the venue.
Satyarthi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for his struggle for the rights of children, said each time a single child was in danger, the country was in danger.
On his return from the Swami Vivekananda rock memorial Satyarthi was received with a ponnadai (silk shawl) by the Rajnikanth fans association who had joined the marchers.
The meeting was addressed by many persons belonging to different organisations that support his yatra, including contingents from the Arya Samaj, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.
Messages from Prime Minister Narendra D Modi and RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat were read out.
As he races across the country Satyarthi expects more and more people to join him to awaken awareness about child abuse and child trafficking.
"This is a war that we have to fight against rapists and traffickers. They should not be allowed to function in India. Every youth is our warrior."
"Let us march from darkness to light, let us march from fear to freedom, let us march from danger to safety."
IMAGES: Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi launches his Bharat Yatra in Kanyakumari, September 11, 2017. Photographs: Kind courtesy Kailash Satyarthi's Twitter feed