Dubbing women as witches is a social menace that refuses to go from rural India, especially in eastern states of the country. However, there is one woman who has been relentlessly fighting against the menace for the last 16 years.
A social activist from Assam, Birubala Rabha (67) had her first encounter with witch-hunting in 2000 when five women of her village Thakurvila, near the Assam-Meghalaya border, and nearby villages were declared witches. In a bid to find a social solution to this problem, a meeting was called by the convenor of Assam Mahila Samata Society, Mamani Saikia.
During the meet, all women were asked if they believed that the five women were witches. However, Birubala was the only woman who said she didn’t believe that the five women were witches. Birubala’s relatives didn’t appreciate her stand and even started calling her a witch.
But Birubala didn’t give-up to the shame-game and instead launched a crusade against witch hunting and other superstitions. She has so far saved scores of women from witch-hunters.
In 2011, Birubala set up Mission Birubala to take forward her crusade against the practice of branding women as `dayans’ (witches), torturing and even killing them. According to the website of Mission Birubala, Birubala was also nominated for Noble Peace Prize.
For her good work, Birubala has so far received numerous prizes. On Tuesday, she was honoured with Our North East (ONE) India Award instituted by My Home India, a Mumbai-based NGO. The award honours people from North East who has contributed to India’s glory, integrity and development.
Rabha received a trophy and Rs 1 lakh. The amount was transferred to her account through RGTS at a ceremony in Mumbai. Birubala is the seventh receipt of ONE India award. The past recipients included legendary boxer Mary Kom.
“It’s very sad that in this age of technological advancement, social evils like witch-hunting still exist in the country, especially in remote areas,” PTI quoted her as saying during the ceremony.
Main reasons for branding women as witches are the lack of education, quality health services and absence of a strong law against the practice, she added.
(With agency input)