The march by women from rural parts of Karnataka demanding a statewide ban on the sale of alcohol reached Bengaluru on Tuesday. After 11 days of marching, they will end their protest tomorrow with a final public interaction outside the Vidhana Soudha.
The women had started from Chitradurga on January 19 and arrived at Yeshwanthpur in the city around 5 pm in spite of a tragic incident on Sunday night when Renukamma, a 60-year-old woman and construction labourer from Raichur taking part in the march, died of injuries in an accident. She was hit by a motor-cycle in Nelamangala while crossing the road.
"We mourn the death of Renukamma but the state of our everyday lives has made us continue the march and come to Bengaluru. We are peacefully protesting on the side of the road so far but now we will block the road until our voices are heard," says Nirupama, one of the protesting woman from Raichur.
The protesting women held interactions in 11 villages on the 200 km route spreading the message of the ill-effects of alcohol. The women ensured that they walked on the side of the road so that traffic is not disrupted. "Women from as many as 19 districts have come together. Most of them are working women, particularly as daily-wage labourers. Their problem is that the money they earn is being spent on alcohol and the responsibility of the household is on them. They have decided to come together and call for an end to the sale of alcohol," says Sharada Gopal, a social activist, who is a part of the protest.
The march is being held under the banner 'Beer Beda Neer Beku' and is being led by the Madya Nisheda Andolana (MNA), an organisation formed in 2016 to demand prohibition in Karnataka. It is supported by about 30 like-minded organisations across the state. The group previously held a relay strike involving thousands of women at Raichur in February 2018 in the lead up to the state Assembly elections in Karnataka, The same group also protested at the Suvarna Soudha in Belagavi during the winter session of the Karnataka Assembly.
Many women participating in the march told TNM that the reasons for their involvement stemmed from personal experiences at home. "In my house, our uncle drinks. Many men in our village are alcoholic and they often get violent. There have been incidents of women being choked, hit with a bottle because of this," explains Nirupama.
The protestors will arrive outside Vidhana Soudha on Wednesday where they will stage a final public interaction. "No party is taking notice of our protest. All parties are united in their opposition to this because the parties cannot be seen as anti-alcohol. People here are walking, sometimes barefoot, sometimes with torn slippers but still continuing towards Bengaluru. We want our movement to be acknowledged," added Sharada.