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Upbeat Birubala starts drive

Jorhat, Jan. 28: Buoyed by the news of getting a plot of land to build a permanent shelter for women hounded out of home after being branded witches (dainees), social activist Birubala Rabha began her campaign here today to raise awareness against the crime in Upper Assam districts.

The 54-year-old activist, who has for long been supporting victims of witch-hunting, said on the sidelines of the meet held at the JB College seminar hall that the government would allot a land to them at Krishnai Halpara in Goalpara district.

“We can now go ahead with our plans to set up a home for these homeless women and let them live a life of dignity,” she said. Earlier, Rabha was allotted a five-bigha land at Udaipur near Dudhnoi in Goalpara but though the government issued a notification for land allotment, there was strong opposition from the people of the neighbourhood during the handing-over ceremony and the proposal had to be cancelled.

Additional deputy commissioner, revenue, Goalpara, Bibekananda Choudhury, confirmed the new land allotment.

Choudhury said before leaving for Jorhat, she had surveyed the land and had okayed it.

Rabha plans to sustain the home by launching various projects like chicken farming, pig rearing, weaving and handicraft making.

She said a few women who had been branded witches but survived had been living a hand-to-mouth existence.

Rabha said that women like them and others who were tortured in their houses or are destitute would also be accommodated in the shelter.

She said funds to build the home would come from different quarters with the DRDA promising Rs 5 lakh to build the boundary wall.

Accompanied by members of Mission Birubala from Goalpara, the activist addressed a group of people at JB College seminar hall today seeking measures to stop witch-hunting.

“I am here today, but I would like Mission Birubala to remain a strong force even after I am gone,” Rabha said.

“I would also like it if we put our heads together to chalk out a strategy so that people stop believing in superstitions. We have to reach out to these people living in interior places and raise awareness that there are no such things as ghosts, black magic and the like.” Aparna, Bora, associated with several social organisations in Dibrugarh, while stating the objectives of today’s meet, stressed that the intervention should be at a time before the crime is committed and not after.

N. Das, a doctor associated with Mission Birubala, said awareness campaigns would be conducted in Golaghat, Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Doomdooma in Tinsukia district.