Thakurs dominate poll fray in Phoolan land
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Last Updated: Friday, February 24, 2012, 10:05
Sheikhpur Gorha (Jalaun): For an outsider, it could just be another non-descript village with tell-tale signs of deprivation and desperation in the badlands of Uttar Pradesh driven by caste divides.

The nearest hospital and high school are ten kilometres away and there is anger in the village, which falls in Kalpi assembly constituency, against SP and BSP as identity politics has let the area wallow in poverty.

However, remember slain bandit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi, who was born and brought up here, and you find out how her larger-than-life image hangs over the village, dominated by members of downtrodden Nishad (boatmen) and Pal (shepherd) castes, and her appeal remains intact as a unifying image even more than a decade after her assassination in faraway Delhi.

Ironically, all the candidates put up by major political parties Congress, SP, BSP and BJP for the ongoing assembly polls in Kalpi constituency belong to upper caste Thakur --Umakanti Chauhan, Sanjay Singh Bhaudaria, Vishnpal Singh and Swatantra Dev Singh.

It was in this village falling under Kalpi that Phoolan had allegedly killed 22 upper caste Thakurs in March, 1981 that came to be known as the infamous Behmai massacre, in an apparent retaliation to her gang-rape.

"Had she not been killed after becoming MP for the second time, she could have become another Sonia Gandhi", says Vidya Devi, who remembers Phoolan as frequenting the village after becoming MP and distributing blankets and clothes among the poor.

Another village resident Bharat Singh Pal from shepherd caste says, "our voice was heard when Phoolan was an MP (from Mirzapur). Now there is nobody to lead us and here only the Chauhans (Thakurs) are being given tickets".

Put together, the votes of Nishad and Pal castes are around 90,000 while those of the Jatavs, Koris and other SCs are around 40,000. Brahmins, Muslims and Kushwahas also have a sizable presence.

Phoolan’s family, which is in political wilderness, after the death of the bandit queen, is slowly attempting to organize a caste identity as her elder sister Rukmini Devi joined Pragatishil Manav Samaj Party of Premchand Bhind from Mirzapur. Rukmini has fielded one Jeerakhan Pal from the seat with an eye on the 56,000-odd Pal votes.

"After Phoolan’s death, no national leader ever came to our village", laments Gram Pradhan of the village Vijay Bahadur Nishad.

Residents of the village, located on the confluence of Yamuna and local Non river, point to the problem of erosion "but nobody is bothered about our plight", complains Ramjeevan Nishad.


First Published: Friday, February 24, 2012, 10:05

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