In the movie ‘Bhakshak’, Bhumi Pednekar plays the character of Vaishali Singh, who is inspired by the real-life journalist and activist Nivedita Jha.
This Netflix film tackles the harrowing story (unearthed by Nivedita) of physical and sexual abuse suffered by young girls in a shelter home operated by a Government-funded NGO in Muzaffarpur, Bihar.
Nivedita started her career with Navbharat Times, but much like her movie character, became an independent journalist.
In 2018, a Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) report revealed that shelter homes in Bihar had become a hub of physical and sexual abuse of minor girls.
Among the 17 shelter homes flagged in the report was Muzaffarpur Shelter Home. Concerned about the girls, Nivedita filed a petition against the shelter home.
It was reported that not only did the girls experience abuse, but some of them were also allegedly killed and quietly disposed of by the people in charge of the shelter home.
With the support of many women associated with Bihar Mahila Samaaj (the National Federation of Indian Women), protests erupted against the Government’s indifference towards these underage girls, which led to an investigation.
In July 2018, the case reached the Patna High Court, where, following a month-long investigation, the court issued a ‘blanket ban’ prohibiting journalists from reporting on the Muzaffarpur shelter home case.
Following this, Nivedita filed a petition to remove the media ban pointing out the right to public information.The journalist cum activist kept following the case until justice was served — 11 people were held responsible and arrested.
Since then, Nivedita has held prominent positions including the president of the Bihar Working Journalists Union (BWJU), acting Bihar president of the National Forum for Indian Women, and president of the Bihar chapter of South Asian Women in Media.
She has authored a book on social discrimination against girls in Bihar and Jharkhand, in addition to publishing three poetry books.
She has also compiled a book of short stories that sheds light on the discrimination against women in these two states, as per a DMTalkies report.