(Patna) “I started working in 1992 on issues related to violence against women in Bihar. The community in which my colleagues and I started working had a number of child rape cases but no one ever reported those to the police as they were scared of the local goons. We started creating awareness about laws made for women through street plays, workshops and training. In these training women started talking about incidents of rape of little girls. We worked in the community for years and built trust. Gradually, people came forward with their cases, and we got FIRs registered and followed the cases in court. Most of the cases that we received were of dalit women and children.
We also worked on issues related to dayan pratha (witchcraft). In one of the most appalling cases, a woman was declared to be a witch because of a boy who she had warned not to climb up on a tree had fallen down and died. She was then brutally raped by 5 men at her home and sexually assaulted with a stick. The police refused to register a complaint as one of the accused was the Mukhiya’s (village head) son and the officials feared that they would lose their job if they registered an FIR. I intervened and got the FIR registered, brought the woman to Patna where she was treated as she had developed internal infections. Now she is healthy. Unfortunately, in most cases the women themselves start believing that they are a dayan (witch). We have honoured many women affected by the dayan pratha so that they feel part of the community.
Sometimes I also get disheartened, especially when even after a lot of struggle and running around, no action is taken. During the course of many cases, people have warned me, threatened me, and even tried to lure me with political positions but I have always been indifferent to the political gambit and determined to get justice.
The most important thing today to prevent violence against women is to spread awareness of the laws amongst girls, their families, friends and relatives.”