Standing up to Fight Alcoholism
We were sitting there, a few hundred women, gathered to discuss the reasons for our poor reproductive health. It had been revealed in a medical survey that our average haemoglobin count was 7 milligrams per decilitre instead of the 12 milligrams per decilitre that it should have been. We were talking of various medical solutions when one woman stood up and said that as long as the men continued to drink and beat us up and make us work like chattels there was no way in which we could improve our health and our status in society. Immediately there was a roar of approval from the women. They unanimously said that the illegal liquor shops must be closed down. No sooner was this decided than we all got up from the meeting and went to a bootlegger shop nearby and told him to close it down. When he refused to do so we searched his shop, siezed his cache of liquor and took it to the nearest police station and deposited it there.
Thus began a massive movement of Bhil tribal women against alcoholism and bootlegging under my leadership. The climax of this movement was when we siezed the illegal warehouse in one of the villages where the biggest bootlegger of the area used to stock his liquor. Anticipating our action he had come down with his armed goons to prevent us but when he saw the strength and determination of the women he backed out and the warehouse was sealed by us. This was the first time in the history of Bhil tribal women when they had stood up against the patriarchal pressures of their own society and also risen to force the state authorities to take action against the powerful bootleggers.
However, the state authorities did not like this rebellion by the women and so they slapped false criminal cases on a few of the women and myself. We then went on hunger strike in prison against this injustice and succeeded in freeing ourselves unconditionally. This was an important victory because it proved to the Bhil women and I that we could stand up against injustice and oppression and improve our status in the face of a patriarchal dispensation.