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  India   All India  14 Jul 2018  Fight for Phoolan’s political legacy

Fight for Phoolan’s political legacy

THE ASIAN AGE. | AMITA VERMA
Published : Jul 14, 2018, 1:55 am IST
Updated : Jul 14, 2018, 1:55 am IST

The Nishad Party is laying its claim to Phoolan Devi’s legacy in UP and the Samajwadi Party has already struck an alliance with it.

‘Bandit Queen’ Phoolan Devi’s political plunge had promised to change the caste dynamics in UP.
 ‘Bandit Queen’ Phoolan Devi’s political plunge had promised to change the caste dynamics in UP.

Lucknow: Seventeen years after she died, former bandit queen and then MP, v, is all set to make a “comeback” in the next Lok Sabha elections.

Political parties in Uttar Pradesh are keen to revive the legacy of Phoolan Devi, popularly known as “Bandit Queen”, and win over the marginalised Nishad community to which she belonged.

Phoolan Devi had emerged as an icon of the Nishad community when she avenged her humiliation and gangrape by upper caste men by killing 22 Thakurs in the Behmai massacre on February 14, 1981, and then after serving jail sentence, she became a member of Parliament twice. She was shot dead outside her MP's bungalow in New Delhi on July 25, 2001, by a man who wanted to avenge the Behmai killings.

The fledgling Nishad Party, led by Sanjay Nishad, is now preparing to revive Phoolan’s legacy and seek its rightful share for the community in the politics.

“We want a statue of Phoolan Devi in Gorakhpur. She is an icon and deserves to be respected as one,” said Mr Nishad.

Mr Nishad’s brother, Pravin, is now MP from Gorakhpur on a Samajwadi ticket. Incidentally, it was the Samajwadi government led by Mulayam Singh Yadav in 1994 that had withdrawn all cases against Phoolan Devi and then ensured her victory in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections.

While the Nishad Party is laying its claim to the Phoolan legacy, the Samajwadi Party - in a shrewd move - has already struck an alliance with the Nishad Party.

“There is no denying the fact that it was Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) who brought Phoolan out of jail and then made her a member of Parliament. Had it not been for him, Phoolan would have spent her life in jail. The Samajwadi Party always works to bring marginalised communities into the social and political mainstream,” said a senior SP leader.

Lautan Ram Nishad, who heads the Rashtriya Nishad Sangh, explained, “The Nishad community and its sub castes like Mallah, Kevat, Bind, Manjhi, Ghevar, Raikwar and Kawar constitute almost 1,78 crore of the state’s population. There are 1.5 lakh members of the community in 44 Lok Sabha seats but the community has largely remained unrepresented in Parliament and the Assembly because we did not have a strong leadership till now.”  

Lautan Ram Nishad said that Phoolan Devi had also made an attempt to bring her community to the political mainstream but she was assassinated before she could accomplish her dream.

Meanwhile, in Shekhpura Gadha village in Orai in Jalaun district, about 260 kilometres from Lucknow, two families are also fighting for Phoolan’s legacy - her mother Moola Devi and her cousin Maiyyadin.

Phoolan’s mother Moola Devi lives with her elder daughter Rukmini. She recalls that her husband Devi Deen owned 16 bighas of land which has been usurped by his brother Bihari and then his son Maiyyadin.

“When Phoolan was alive, she had got six bighas of land back but those people (cousin) grabbed it back after she died. All I want now is that the land should be given to us and on it the government can open a school and a hospital in my daughter’s name where the poor get free education and treatment,” she said.

Moola Devi, an octogenarian, said that she had given several representations to the district officials but no action had been taken.

Her son Shiv Narain works in Madhya Pradesh but Moola Devi does not want him back. “He will suffer the same fate as Phoolan. He sends me money and we survive on that. All I want is that there should be something in Phoolan’s name here. Uska naam zinda reghna chahiye”, she said.

Tags: phoolan devi, lok sabha elections, bandit queen