Green Shoots I

Green Shoots I – 'No Alcohol, No Gambling'

A year ago, I was so fed up with my husband’s habit of drinking and gambling that I even contemplated self-destruction. Then in Varanasi’s Assi Ghat, I met Divyanshu Upadhyay, a member of the Hope Welfare Trust, a non-profit body working for rural India betterment, who suggested that I should form a group or gang just like those operating in some other villages where women face similar problems with their menfolk.

Excited by the idea, I returned to my village (Ramsipur) and slowly started talking to women there who were facing such problems. When we had a group of around 20, we went back to Divyanshu bhaiyya who taught us some self-defence skills using the lathi (cane) and some basic martial arts. We began patrolling the streets of our village. In the beginning, everyone made fun of us, even the womenfolk in our village. Bu then we began raiding the gambling dens and places where men gathered to drink heavily. That’s when the villagers started taking us seriously.

Word spread quickly and we began getting information about the “addas” where the drunks and gamblers gathered. We would raid those places at odd hours and close them down. The trademark green saris we wore became a sort of brand for our gang and soon errant men would run when they saw us approach with our lathis. Our modus operandi is simple. We raid the gambling and drinking dens; tear up their playing cards and smash their bottles of hooch. And, of course, warn them sternly.

In the past year since we began our drive, I won’t say that the problem is fully eradicated but many men have now stopped drinking and gambling their money away. Instead they focus their lives on earning money for their families. Needless to say the women in the village are happier and their lives less stressful.
Alcoholism and gambling have ravaged our village, where most people are labourers. Domestic violence and crimes against women was also quite common.

But now things are improving and neighbouring villages are also beginning to follow our example and set up “green gangs”. A few months back the inspector of the local police station was so impressed that he appointed some of us as “police mitr” (friend of the police) and extended help if we informed the local police of any instances of illegal gambling, domestic abuse, and so on. We soon reported three cases of domestic violence and the police have put three men behind bars.

During the last assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, we used to walk around villages in our area with Dholaks (drums) and Manjeeras (cymbals) singing folks songs that urged people to come out to vote without any fear and let us know if anyone tried to force them to vote for a particular candidate or stop them from voting. We want to make our village completely free of drinking and gambling and help other women in the villages nearby do the same.