"We will fight till death. We are dying anyway"

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phekia devi

At the age of 50, Phekia Devi has seen the transition of her fellow fisherfolk: from the days of oppression of the landlords to the betrayal by their own people. As she walks on the banks of the Ganga, she describes how the fishing mafia stripped her folks of their livelihood. She talks of the time when they had fish, when they used to help their men carrying the big rohu and katla. She also narrates how they managed to free themselves from the clutches of the feudal lords. The times when she was arrested, the times she sat on dharnas. It was a fierce struggle, she would say. "We were determined to be free or die."

As the rich fisherfolk of her own community threaten her of dire consequences for bringing this reporter into the ghat, she shouts back at them and whispers to take photographs. Braving the hooligans, she walks away, a sense of accomplishment written on her face. "These people cannot do anything. They know they are on the wrong side."

Always on her toes, she takes you anywhere you want to go. The goons and illegal fishers, though wary of her presence, quietly walk away. They know better than to cross her fiery attitude and mouth. After narrating the plight of the fisherfolk, she asks: "You have seen our problems. Will you be able to help?" She has lost hope on the government. But she stands firm: "We will fight till death. We are dying anyway."