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Life and struggle of gutsy Laxmi on screen

- Film a campaign against assault on women

Guwahati, Nov. 24: A young college lecturer and filmmaker has documented the life and struggle of Laxmi Orang, a feisty girl from Assam’s Sonitpur district, who was stripped in public six years back, the trauma she underwent and the way she has been fighting for justice.

Parthajit Baruah’s documentary, Laxmi Orang: Rising from the Grave, is not only a strong public campaign against sexual assault of women in the country but also encourages other women to join hands for their welfare.

The 30-minute documentary was released here today during a programme organised by the All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam. The association had led the rally at Beltola Chariali here on November 24, 2007, seeking Scheduled Tribe status for Adivasis living in the state, but it turned violent after some of the protesters allegedly attacked shops and started destroying vehicles.

From slogans by a crowd at the rally, the way criminals stripped Laxmi and beat up many agitators and the security forces lathicharging them — the documentary had put them all before viewers.

It also shows how Laxmi and her family broke down soon after the incident and the way she fought back and started working against harassment of women. She moved out of her native village Japowari Orang Basti in Sonitpur district, about 400km from here and attended meetings and seminars on women’s rights in Bengal, Delhi, Jharkhand, Bihar and other places.

Laxmi, who has been recognised as “Adivasi Icon” by the association, today looked more confident but the pain of not getting justice was clearly on her face. “Why I am not being given justice like the Delhi gang rape or the girl molested on GS Road? I was offered Rs 1lakh and a job but I refused because I still believe that I will get justice only when our community (Adivasis) is given ST status. After all, I came to Guwahati on the day (November 24, 2007) for the same cause,” Laxmi told The Telegraph today.

Baruah, the documentary maker, said: “Her zeal has made her a role model for women in our society who frequently face sexual assault besides physical and mental harassment.”

Wilfred Topno of Adivasi Sahitya Sabha rued that from the GS Road incident to the Delhi gang rape case and the latest Tarun Tejpal incident have received much attention, but not in case of Orang. “Like Laxmi, hundreds of women working in Assam tea gardens are slanged by the mohoris (supervisors) and babus always. Of the 10 lakh tea garden workers, 60 per cent are women and most are working without proper wages and are facing harassment at workplace,” Topno said.

Raffel Kujur, president of the All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam, suspects that there has been a conspiracy for which Laxmi is not getting justice even today.