Written by Shivani Deshmukh
“My father used to drink and so did my husband. I don’t want my son to turn into them. I had to give up my education and work to pay for their alcohol. This is why I am here. I want a ban on alcohol because I have seen it destroying lives…” said Rekha, who is part of Swamini Darubandi Andolan Samiti of Yavatmal. The samiti is a group of women who have been victims of violence by husbands and family members under the influence of alcohol.
The Darubandi Samiti, along with Saad Manuskichi Foundation of the city, recently organised a play that was based on real life stories of women who have suffered because of alcohol at Jawaharlal Nehru Sanskrutik Kendra, Ghole Road.
The director of the play, Mahesh Pawar, who had also led a mass agitation of women in Yavatmal in 2015 demanding a ban on alcohol, said: “All these stories being presented on stage are just sample stories. You will find numerous stories like these in the district of Yavatmal and some of them are so brutal that they cannot even be presented on stage. Here, our only motive is to bring the issues concerned with consumption of alcohol into light. And this isn’t just a play, this is a voice against the laws of the government.” After marching from Yavatmal to Nagpur with 60,000 women and over 97 rallies to no effect, the director said he wants prohibition in the district of Yavatmal like Vardha and Chandrapur.
The easy access and cheap rates of alcohol in rural parts of Maharashtra have been creating a havoc in the sense of security of women and children.
“Alcohol has ruined many lives, including mine. It is women who suffer the most. Some women are beaten every night and some are burnt alive by their husbands in inebriated state. My husband was murdered by drunkards three years ago. He was killed with such brutality that we could not even see his dead body…” said a teary eyed 55-year-old Sushila Virendra Rathore, whose husband, Virendra Rathore was killed at the age of 57 after he solved a dispute between two drunkards.
“We complain to the police, but they do nothing. We demand for them to shut the alcohol shops down but they never do it because the alcohol dealers pay them nearly Rs 10,000 every month. Sometimes they are drunk themselves. They ask us to go and seize the shops and get hold of alcohol dealers…but then if we have to do that, what are the police for? Our only wish is to live a happy life and that cannot happen as long as there is alcohol in our village,” said Rekha and Jaymala Bondre. Jaymala’s husband died one and a half years ago due to consumption of alcohol.
The women at Swamini Darubandi Andolan Samiti are fighting against alcohol everyday. “They (men) think that we (women) are a pile of garbage…but they are still to find out what happens when this pile of garbage is lit with fire,” said Rekha. “My village has been alcohol-free since I started gathering and agitating women against alcohol consumption, which was six years ago. But sadly, men somehow manage to get hold of alcohol from nearby villages and the plight still continues…and till then, the fight continues too,” she added.