It was in a village in Bassi and some NGOs in Jaipur and Delhi, 21 years ago, that the battle against sexual harassment at the workplace began. Sweta Dutta finds Bhanwari Devi aware, at work and still fighting.
Bhanwari, 55, is aware that the guidelines are in the news, as aware as she is about what these still lack. It took the December 16, 2012, Delhi gangrape for the recommendations to take the shape of an Act. Seven months later, the rules are yet to be formulated. “Have the guidelines been implemented?” Bhanwari asks. “No? Then what is the point?”
However, even she knows that that is only partly true. In these parts, Bhanwari’s struggle has made her a symbol for justice. The same villagers who once ostracised her after her rape, and more importantly for fighting back, come to her seeking help.
Early in the morning of December 6, Sitaram Koli and Jagdish Bairwa, who even today in the presence of upper caste men pretend to have nothing to do with her, stand at her doorstep, seeking help in land grab cases.
Late December 5 night, Bhanwari had received another call for help. Women had phoned her up to complain that Meena community members in nearby Gadoli had beaten them up while they were working on an MNREGA project, because the village voted for a Dalit candidate in the Assembly elections held on December 1.