ANS has conducted teachers training camps all over Maharashtra every year, for last 10 – 12 years to inculcate scientific temperament and various aspects of superstition eradication. These trained teachers in turn teach the students the importance of eradication of this social evil. Thousands of students have taken part in this extra curricular activity under the guidance of the ANS trained teachers. But some one may raise doubts about its utility since the superstitions are still rampant and there are no indications that this evil will vanish from the face of the earth. However a small step towards eradication of superstition was witnessed recently in a small village in Karaveer Taluka of Kolhapur district. Shinganapur is a comparatively very prosperous village which has a strong hold on power structures to control sugar factory, Banking facilities, Zilla Parishad etc. It was quite unexpected that witch-hunting incident took place in such a politically conscious village.
A newly wed bride age 21 years, was suffering from some severe fever during which she lost her speech. She was simply not able to utter a single word. The family members and village elders came to the conclusion that a spirit had haunted the bride and she should undergo the treatment by a local Devarshi lady. The Devarshi lady came and saw the ‘Ghost’. After performing usual rituals, Devarshi realized that she is not able to regain the speech. The ‘expert’ lady then insisted that worn out used chappal should be put in her mouth to throw the ghost out, which is preventing the bride from speaking. When the bride refused to hold the chappal in her mouth, Devarshi lady started beating her with a baton. The helpless bride at last held the chappal in her mouth presuming that her suffering will be over. But Devarshi lady started asking the ‘spirit’ to show the place where from it has come. Bide was helpless. Devarshi lady stated beating her since the spirit was not obeying her command. The bride started running from place to place to escape the whipping. Holding the chappal in her mouth, she came out on the street, followed by Devarshi lady with the baton in her hand. A large crowd followed them which turned it into some sort of procession. Whenever the chappal slipped from the bride’s mouth she got beaten up by Devarshi lady. The onlookers were enjoying the scene but never dared to stop the atrocity. At last the bride fell unconscious on the street. Devarshi lady was happy to find the place of spirit where from it had emerged. Since the Godess spoke through Devarshi lady, all were happy.
While this was going on the news reached a nearby school. The teachers and students could not believe that these things can happen in their own village. Though the students were too afraid of what was going on, they gathered their strength and protested along with their teachers. The teachers – Prabhavati Jadhav, Vandana Bachate, Ashwini Surange, Naseem Mulla Aparadh, Kusum Kamble, Sunanda Patil, Sopanrao Vadgaokar – and students took initiative to stop this atrocity, They argued with the family members and local leaders urging them to stop the heinous act against the innocent bride. Though some leaders were not happy with this interference by teachers, the crowd did disperse with shame. It is yet to be seen what repercussions will be there on the teachers and students and what stand the family members and local dignitaries will take.
These kinds of acts are not new to villagers. Most of the places, these are daily routines and no one finds it as strange. These things happen in one form or other and the so-called educated class just ignores it. They will never open their mouth even as a token of protest. What made the teachers and students of Shinganapur to boldly stand against the local leaders? The strength to protest might have come because of the training given to them by ANS. Teachers and students in fact, acknowledged the contributions made by ANS. Teachers took a lot of risk in opposing the village elders since they are not supposed to hurt the religious sensitivities of the community, nor are they supposed to take part in the local politics as they are paid Government employees. However teachers were desperate enough to protest, as they could not remain passive or just be passive onlookers when such a dreadful thing was happening around them. There was even a risk of losing their jobs too. However Sanjay Sulagave, ANS activist, took initiative to lessen the hard feelings of the community elders towards teachers.
Education is thus a powerful tool to eradicate the evil traditions effectively, which affect our village poor.