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Padma Shri awardee & anti witch-hunting crusader Birubala Rabha succumbs to cancer at 75

Birubala Rabha, a recipient of the Padma Shri award for her work in fighting against witch-hunting, passed away at a hospital in Gauhati on Monday. Rabha, who was 75 years old, had been battling cancer for a long time. 

News Arena Network - Dispur - UPDATED: May 13, 2024, 03:13 AM - 4 mins read

Padma Shri awardee & anti witch-hunting crusader Birubala Rabha succumbs to cancer at 75

Padma Shri awardee & anti witch-hunting crusader Birubala Rabha succumbs to cancer at 75

President Kovind presents Padma Shri to Dr Birubala Rabha for social work. - X


Birubala Rabha, a recipient of the Padma Shri award for her work in fighting against witch-hunting, passed away at a hospital in Gauhati on Monday. Rabha, who was 75 years old, had been battling cancer for a long time. 

 

She is survived by two sons, a daughter, and other relatives. Rabha was admitted to the State Cancer Institute at the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital on April 22 due to severe weakness, according to GMCH superintendent Abhijit Sarma.

 

"She has been a patient of advanced-stage carcinoma oesophagus since 2021 and was undergoing treatment at our hospital. She was put on a metallic stent because of difficulty in swallowing six months ago," he added.

 

Admitted to the hospital last month, Rabha was shifted to ICU on May 4th and put on a mechanical ventilator on Sunday due to respiratory distress, according to Sarma.

 

"After all possible intensive care, she breathed her last at 9:23 am due to multi-organ failure," he added.

 

Rabha was a fearless leader of the NGO 'Mission Birubala'. She had unfortunately lost her son and brother to witch hunting, which made her work even more important. 

 

Despite facing numerous attempts on her life by superstitious villagers branding her a witch, she continued her courageous work in remote areas. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma expressed his deep condolences over the passing away of this social activist.

 

"I am deeply distressed to learn about the passing away of Padma Shri Smt Birubala Rabha. Through her untiring efforts to end social evils, she illuminated the paths of scores of women with hope and confidence.

 

"Rising through a challenging life, she epitomised courage against all odds. Assam will forever remain grateful for her leadership in serving society," he posted on X.

 

Her mortal remains will be taken to her home in Goalpara district, and the last rites will be performed with full state honours, Patowary said.

 

Born in remote Thakurvila village in Goalpara in 1949, Rabha had a struggling childhood. Her father died when she was six, forcing her to drop out of school after class 5 and help her mother run the household. Rabha was just 15 years old when she married a farmer with whom she had three children.

 

Rabha was instrumental in the enactment of the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Act, 2015, which made every offence related to witch hunting cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable, making provisions for imprisonment up to seven years along with a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh for identifying and calling a person witch.

 

Her struggle against the menace began when her son was branded a 'witch' and diagnosed to die within three days because he was mentally unstable. Her family was isolated for three years after she started raising her voice against witch-hunting.

 

Rabha formed 'Mission Birubala' in 2012 to create awareness among people against social evil and all forms of superstitious beliefs, besides providing rehabilitation to the victims of the witch-hunting menace. The organisation has saved the lives of 55 victims so far in the Majuli, Kokrajhar, Goalpara and Tinsukia districts.

 

Recognising her work to protect lives in rural India, she was conferred the fourth highest civilian award of the country 'Padma Shri' in 2021.




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