The ‘Green Brigade’, comprising women, mostly from tribals and lower castes, not only help police combat Naxal activities but check villagers joining Naxal groups
A silent social revolution is on in Naxal-affected areas of Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh. The ‘Green Brigade’, comprising women mostly from tribals and lower castes, not only help police combat Naxal activities but check villagers joining Naxal groups due to poverty and backwardness. Besides this, the Brigade is also actively involved in removing social evils like gambling, liquor consumption, weed addiction and smoking in their areas.
The Green Brigade initiative was replicated by the Mirzapur SSP Ashish Tiwari in 10 Naxal-affected villages in the district after he came across their activities in five villages of Varanasi, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Parliamentary constituency.
Founded by two Social Science Graduate friends and civil services aspirants Divyanshu Upadhyaya and Ravi Mishra in 2015, the Hope Welfare Trust began its activities by selecting Khusiyari, one of the most backward villages on the outskirts of Varanasi. In less than three years, the Hope Welfare Trust has a team of over 300 volunteers working mostly in the tribal and Naxal belts of Mirzapur and Varanasi.
The village having a population of over 1000, mainly tribals, had no roads, no electricity, no toilet or other basic amenities. When the two visited the village for the first time to get to their problems, an elderly woman suggested that before even thinking of any development in the area they need to fight and remove social evils plaguing the village.
Men in the village do not even wait for the sunset. They start the day with alcohol or a ‘Chillum’ with local weed. While women work in whatever little farming they have, men will spend the whole day playing cards to gamble their family’s future. They will often go violent and quarrel with friends when they lose money and other valuables in gambling. They will return to their huts in an inebriated state when hungry, only to thrash their wives and children to take out their frustration.
There was not an iota of a lie in elderly woman’s scary tale about the village. The two Hope Trust members had a first-hand experience when they spent two days in the village. Initially, they were reluctant to start the initiative from the village but when other tribal women in the village volunteered to support their reformist and women empowerment programs, both friends decided to take up the challenge.
Khusiyari became the lab for the Hope Trust to begin a new social revolution. “We thought that if we succeeded here then we will not fail in other villages,” pointed Divyanshu.
The Trust members designed a program as per the social, geographical and economic need of the village. A few girl volunteers of the Hope Trust were introduced to the village to select tribal women who were ready to be part of the program. About 15 women were selected for the core group for training.
Since the majority of them were illiterates and had never attended schools, they were first taught to write their names. They were given training in Judo-Karate for self-defence but were strictly told to adopt non-violent means to tackle any situation.
Within three months, the core group trained about 90 women in other four villages including Deura, Ramsipur, Jagardevpur and Bhadrasi. At the time of their final induction, they were given a surprise gift Green Sarees. This is how the Green Brigade got its name. In each village, they have 15-20 members who carry on the new social revolution in their respective areas.
Wearing Green sarees and wielding lathis in their hands, these tribal women will counsel men, their wives, children and other family members and if men resisted then they would force family members to ostracize them for a day or two from home as a punishment. “We would also seek help from the local police if threatened by men not ready to mend their ways,” said Nirmala Kumari.
The Green Brigade targeted local ‘bhattis’ (brewery) producing country-made liquor with the help of the police and cut off the supply of the ‘kuchchi daru’ in the village. The Trust also sought help from rural health mission officials in holding health camps for their check-ups and de-addiction of men hooked to alcohol and ‘ganja’.
Within a month many village elders and men started supporting the Green Brigade initiatives. “We were being treated with much respect and not only women even men would come to us on their own to give up alcohol and ganja smoking,” recalled Asha Devi, one of the most active Green Brigade leader.
Once the Green Brigade makes a house social evils-free, it will put a green ‘thappa’ (seal) of their both hands on the hut to announce that the home is free from alcohol consumption and domestic violation. “The occasion is celebrated with contributions by villagers,” said Chand Tara, another Green Brigade activist.
The Hope Welfare Trust initiative of women empowerment to fight social evils soon reached the neighbouring Naxal-affected district of Mirzapur where the SSP Ashish Tiwari was also planning to rope in support of villagers to combat growing naxalism.
The Hope Welfare Trust members were invited and assured full support if they began the same programs in Naxal-affected villages in the district. “After Khusiyrai, it was a bigger challenge. We gave a nod and redesigned the program with little changes,” said Divyanshu.
Core Group from Varanasi along with a team of volunteers camped in Simri, Purania, Hinauta, Dhanseria, Rampur, Bhawanipur, Bhiti, Kudi, Dadra and Rajghar Naxal-affected villages to train over 150 tribal women to empower them and to begin on removing social evils first.
Impressed by their works, the SSP Mirzapur gave them the ‘Police Mitra’ identity cards. It was the biggest achievement of the Green Brigade so far. The idea was to allow Green Brigade to keep an eye on Naxal activities and act as police informers for combating Naxalism. “Identity cards of Police Mitra were more effective than lathis. We got more respect and power in the village,” said Shunita Kumari.
Most of the naxalities from these ten villages will suddenly disappear for days and months to work for their groups in Chhattisgarh and Bihar and come back when police hunt for them after Naxal strikes in these states. The Green Brigade would make a list of such men and inform a police cell, specially created for them, on their return and any suspicious activities they see in villages.
Within two-three months, many of the Naxals were arrested and are now being reformed in police custody. The SSP Mirzapur has assured the Green Brigade to let them off once they are fully reformed to stay away from Naxal activities.
After the success of the Green Brigade in Naxal areas, the Hope Welfare Trust is planning to approach Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and other states facing the Naxal problems with the help of the SSP Mirzapur Ashish Tiwari to replicate their ‘Mirzapur Model’ to reform Naxalites.
© 2016 Sulabh Swachh Bharat. All Right Reserved