• Beyond The Bindi

Inspiring Activism - Manu Khajuria




  1. the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.

Being a Dogra, Hindu woman from Jammu & Kashmir I felt invisible and voiceless. My foray into activism and community work stems from my decision to change this feeling of not being in control of my own narrative.

For inspiration I have drawn from my own civilisational heritage. The Dogra civilisation is known for its worship of the feminine power, recognising it as divine. Stories of courage, valour and sacrifice transcend geographies and time, but it helps when heroes and heroines are relatable. It becomes easier to look up to them when they look and sound like you.

Vaishno Devi, Jammu
Vaishno Devi, Jammu

Peculiar to the Jammu region, where I come from, are quaint shrines devoted to village deities many of whom are women, worshipped as Daatis or Kuldevis [1]. Many of these are associated with stories of ordinary women rising to extraordinary stature against injustice.

The Daati of Dhabbuj in Samba tehsil [2] died during her fight against the atrocities committed by Lalpal, a rich businessman. Bua Bhaga’s samaadhi [3] is in Billawar tehsil and a testimony to her rebellion against autocracy. She protested against the unfair taxes imposed on the farmers by the jagirdar [4] of Sumarta on the orders of the raja (king) of Bhaddu.

Bua Bhaga opposed this taxation vehemently. She went door-to-door, carrying her newborn who was being breast-fed at that time, urging people not to pay the taxes. There was no room for opposition and after being cornered by the king's soldiers who had come to arrest her, Bua Bhaga died along with her infant daughter in order to protect her honour. Bua Bhaga teaches us lessons in bravery, activism and standing for the rights of the people.

These women were activists and rights campaigners in their own right. Most importantly, it reiterates that we don’t have to look too far for role models. The empowerment and celebration of women begins in our own homes. All we need to do is look around and within.

By Manu Khajuria

  1. Ancestral/regional deities

  2. Sub-district

  3. Tomb or shrine

  4. King's official who enjoyed the land gifted from the King

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