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
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
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
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