Clad in pink saris and armed with wooden batons, a group of women, locally known as ‘Gulabi gang’, is creating terror among those selling illicit alcohol in the villages of Bundelkhand’s Sagar district these days.
The ‘anti-liquor’ Gulabi gang was set up in the villages under Rehli assembly area of Sagar district over a fortnight ago. Besides agitating against illegal alcohol sale, the group is also creating awareness for prohibition and urging villagers to work with them to nake their areas alcohol free.
The Gulabi gang was set up by one Jyoti Patel, a native of Patna Bujurgh village. Jyoti (25), who is also a district panchayat member, is unmarried and is pursuing M Tech.
“For a long time I felt that setting up of a women’s group was much needed to fight the social evils like alcoholism because it affects women the most. Since last one month throughout state and especially in Bundelkhand, we are witnessing large-scale anti-liquor protests. This inspired me to set up this group which we call ‘anti liquor women squad’. Our aim is to work for liquor prohibition by persuasion, stop sale of illegal liquor that is rampant here, shifting of license liquor shops from public places especially the ones near temples, schools, markets and so on,” Jyoti told HT.
Jyoti said while forming the group, she took inspiration from Sampat Bai’s Gulabi Gang from Uttar Pradesh. “So far our group has covered three villages Raun, Semra and Kadta which were facing problems due to rampant alcoholism and its illegal sale. Around 100 women from these villages have joined our group and are now our active members. We normally go to village in a group of 15 to 20 women wearing pink saris or salwars and carry our wooden batons with us.
“First of all we hold a meeting with the villagers and tell them about the evil effects of liquor and persuade them to quit drinking. Depending on their response, we decide our future course of action,” she said.
Jyoti said their group then knocks on doors of those selling illegal liquor and requests them to stop it or be ready to face consequences. “Few days ago our group was in Semra Gond village. When we saw an illegal liquor seller, he fled leaving some empty bottles behind. When we leave the village, our local unit informs us if anyone again started selling liquor illegally,” she said.
Feran Singh of Semra Gond village told HT that it was a very good initiative. “We are supporting them as alcohol had disturbed the peace and harmony in the villages. People who sell or drink liquor now fear seeing so many women in pink and what they can do,” he said.
Except for Jyoti, most of the womenfolk associated with group are illiterate. They joined the group to free a family member or members from alcoholism.
Premrani Gond who is from Kadta village, is one of the leading members of the group. She recalls that her husband was a habitual drinker. “Since our movement started, my husband quit drinking and no one is selling illegal liquor in our area now. Our members here take rounds of the village and report to me about those trying to sell liquor illegally,” she said.
The next target of the group is to shift a Sahpur (Rehli assembly area) license liquor shop which has been opened near a temple and school, despite local protest.
Interestingly Rehli assembly is headed by cabinet minister Gopal Bhargav. Few days ago his son Abhishek expressed his support through a Facebook post for those agitating against liquor shops. He even criticized the state administration’s role and termed it as ‘Kumbhakaran’, saying that it was not waking up from its slumber despite anti-liquor protests across the state .