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Watch: An all-woman Dalit band in Bihar is marching to the beat of its own drums

Shattering stereotypes and breaking conventions.

Tradition and discrimination are being subverted in a small village in Bihar where many weddings and auspicious occasions are visited by a Mahadalit drum band. That’s not all that’s special about the band, however – it is also formed entirely of women.

The Nari Gunjan Sangam Mahila Band, from Dhibra village near Patna, has broken stereotypes on many levels. Predictably, it was no easy task for these women to claim this space in the village, where the mainstay is agriculture.

“Everyone dissuaded us. They told us that this is a man’s job, and people would complain if women played drums for special events. But we didn’t back down. We said that even if people complain, we’ll do it,” Savita Devi, who leads the group, says in the video above.

The idea to form a band was introduced to them by Sudha Varghese, a social worker who established Nari Gunjan Sanstha, an NGO that works for women’s rights in Bihar. Though the women were hesitant at first to take up a male-dominated occupation, they soon dedicated themselves to learning the craft. Now, they are probably the first all-women Mahadalit drum band in Eastern India.

From previously earning about Rs 100 daily wages for labouring on the farm, each band member now earns about Rs 500 per performance. The band is also putting the drums to use to help women in distress. If they hear of a woman being attacked or beaten up in their village, band-members loudly beat their drums outside the house to attract the attention of the rest of the village. Savita Devi told The Hindu, “When we start drumbeating, the villagers, including children, gather at the door. The husband immediately stops beating his wife for fear of disgrace.”

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