As he neared his rundown hut last Thursday, his feet unsteady from a heavy dose of country-made liquor, Baleshwar Pasi fired a volley of invectives at Munni, his wife, as he had been doing every evening since he married her 15 years ago.
But he soon realised it was different this time.
Lying in wait for the 35-year-old labourer, at Banauli village in Rohtas district of Bihar, was a clutch of angry women armed with brooms and bamboo sticks.
The women pounced upon Pasi and gave him a sound thrashing that left him begging for mercy.
Made to do sit-ups with his hands clutching the ears, as punishment for waywardness and abusive excesses on Munni, Pasi vowed never to touch alcohol again. “Munni dealt him the maximum number of blows,” said Prabhawati Devi, 45, who founded a 150-member all-women vigilante group that came to Munni’s rescue on Thursday.
Formed last Tuesday and named Durga Vahini, after the goddess who slays evil and symbolises women’s power, the group has banned consumption of alcohol in the village as also the entry of anybody drunk.
“They mean business,” said Doma Ansari, 25, who too was a recipient of the ‘broom treatment’ after he created ruckus at the village on Sunday under the influence of alcohol.
Banauli is home to 1,200 souls, a majority of them mahadalits--- the poorest among dalits---and some Muslims. Most of the men are habitual drinkers and work as labourers or drivers, spending a significant part of their incomes on alchol.
Falling liquor sales have infuriated the liquor mafia, which has been threatening the women with dire consequences. While the group has pledged it won’t be bogged down by threats, district magistrate Sandeep Kumar Pudakalkatti said the administration fully supported their campaign.