Why Samajwadi Party chose to forget Phoolan Devi ?
Three years back, a friend informed me that former Samajwadi Party star campaigner Phoolan Devi’s family is in dire need. Her younger sister Ramkali and her mother were compelled to work under MNREGA. I decided to go to Phoolan’s ancestral village Shekhupura near Kalpi, in Kanpur Dehat to meet Ramkali and her mother. When I reached there, Ramkali was in a bad shape, coughing with some fever. Her mother had gone to stay with her brother in Gwalior so Ramkali was alone that time. She narrated her story which could bring tears in any one’s eyes of how politicians just get away from you once their work is finished. She requested to Mulayam Singh Yadav, who she said, was like her father, to help her family as promised. In fact, when I uploaded the video and as well as my article on Behmai and Phoolan Devi went to many friends inside the Samajwadi Party. I thought they might have taken some action but nothing happened.
I decided to be in Phoolan’s village again to speak to her mother and sister. I thought, it would be better to visit Behmai first to meet someone I wished to meet though I did not succeed. What I found there was shocking for me. The place where Phoolan Devi and her gang allegedly massacred 20 persons of village Behmai predominantly belonging to Rajput community who were accused of keeping silent when the Rajput gang of dacoits kidnapped her and sexually violated her during her captivity, on February 14th, 1981. At the outskirts of the village is this ‘shaheed smakark where the names of all those killed in that massacre have been written but this time one could see, a photograph of Sher Singh Rana above these names. Sher Singh Rana is the main culprit of murdering Phoolan Devi who claimed to have killed her to avenge the killings of Rajputs of Behmai. It is shocking to see the photograph of an accused adoring the village. How can Sher Singh Rana be a role model of the villagers of Behmahi ?
From Behmahi, I started for Kalpi in district Jalaun, along with some of my local friends who had known the family. After a difficult journey, we reached to village Ghura ka purva, Sheikhpuraguda which is Phoolan’s ancestor village about 20 kilometer from Kalpi. Fortunately, Phoolan’s mother Mula Devi had just arrived from her son’s place, so it was an occasion for us to interact with her. Initially, she was not willing to speak but later she relented. Phoolan’s another sister was there. When she realized, I came for Delhi specially to meet her and promised her to raise her case to the political leadership of Uttar Pradesh in due time, she requested that her ancestral land which is illegally usurped over by Phoolan’s Dau’s family, must be handed over to her son. Her sister who has started a political outfit to further the ‘political legacy’’ of Phoolan Devi demanded CBI inquiry of the murder. She said, these days governments have been ordering CBI inquiry for every petty thing including Madhumita case, why is Phoolan Devi’s murder not worthy of a CBI inquiry?’ She says, I am now running a political party called ‘Pragatisheel Manav Samaj Party’ which work for all the communities and people.’
Phoolan Devi was a two time Member of Parliament of Samajwadi Party, a celebrated campaigner of the party who was used by the party in mobilizing, Nishads, one of the biggest communities in Uttar Pradesh. Initially, Ram Vilas Paswan two used her but later she shifted to Samajwadi Party. The political value of Phoolan was immense for Samajwadi Party that time. The first thing was to mobilise the Nishad, Mallah votes in different parts of the state which had joined hands with BSP and second, to counter Ms Mayawati’s star appeal as a mass based political leader. In fact, when Phoolan was promoted by Samajwadi Party vigorously, many of the people raised her caste status terming that she was not a Dalit woman. Phoolan was too simple to know the intricacies of politics though she enjoyed the stardom but if she developed a feeling of politically as matured and strong woman as Mayawati, then it was not her fault but perhaps she was made to believe by others who wanted to use her. Phoolan was a fighter but definitely not a hard core politician and remained a fairly down to earth and simple homely woman till her end.
As I sit on the cot bowing to Phoolan’s mother asking her whether she has any request for Mulayam Singh Yadav or Akhilesh Yadav, she says, she just want that justice be done to her regarding to her ancestral land which has been illegally acquired by Phoolan’s cousins. Now, the mother wants Akhilesh Yadav and Mulayam Singh to help her getting possession of her legitimate land. She says, she has nothing more to ask from the government except her legitimate land title.
‘Do you get any pension, I ask. No, she says. I got pension under Mahamaya scheme thrice but it got cut. She has a ration card but does not get anything from it. It’s very difficult for us. What to do. We are living life and taking it to our stride. With folded hands she ask Akhilesh Yadav to help her. The question is when the mother of a former Member of Parliament is in such a situation, it raises many valid questions about our democracy and the political system. Phoolan was accused of ‘amassing’ huge wealth but today any one can come here and see the condition of her ancestor home. She is trying to protect her small house too. It is sad that her own party has forgotten her. It is important to know how an old mother of a former Member of Parliament can’t even get her basic pension and why is she is now virtually begging.
Her mother does not want to politicize it and stops when her sister tried to suggest that they used her photograph for votes. Obviously, the question is serious but her mother seems to be very conscious and does not want to confront Samajwadi Party particularly Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav or Akhilesh Yadav. She says, ‘’ Phoolan followed the party dictates to contest election and even won that from a place which she had not known well. Our house is about to collapse. Akhilesh should listen to this and build this house and ensure my son get his agricultural land’. She asks me, ‘am I asking too much’’, to which I responded that housing and pension is her right. I ask her as what does she do and she respond that ‘I am not in a position to do anything like doing labour work. I have to virtually beg’. Though begging is a crime yet it should shock to us to see the mother of a member of parliament is today roaming helplessly to get her thing done. She says that she wanted to speak to Akhilesh Yadav but strangely none of the members of the party could speak to the party high command and seek justice for her. She says confidently that Akhilesh can resolve her crisis as he is in a power position. She gives details of the family. They were two brothers, Devideen and Bihari and both have one son each. Devideen’s son is Shiv Narain while Bihari’s son is Maiyadin. She accuses Maiyadin of snatching the right of his younger brother Shiv Narain. They are stuck in the litigation where witnessed have died. ‘Why the judgment is not coming’, she says. I have two grandchildren. How will they grow? The land will definitely help them.
The mother knows the fact which many people have been saying about Phoolan that she earned huge money but the fact is that if any one visit here will understand the crisis of the family and how they are facing it. It is terrible. The desperation is there but a hope too that political leadership will understand and help them. She take me inside her house to show me what is there inside a place which pretend to be the ‘kitchen’ but it is in shambles now and the roof can collapse any time. It was painful to see the house of Phoolan in such a shape though we cannot blame anyone for this but the political ethics suggest that Samajwadi Party and its leadership should have taken care of their small needs. Even as a poor and needy people from marginalized section of our society they need special assistance.
Mula Devi then takes me to her younger daughter Ram Kali’s house which is a few yards away from the ancestral house. That too is in a half built. The mother is more concerned about her younger daughter who was not home when we reached there as she had gone out for work. Ram Kali does not own any land and has to survive on working as a casual labor or MNRGA work. Mula Devi is too worried about Ram Kali and tells me even if things don’t happen for her, at least please try to get help for Ram Kali who neither is in good health nor have any source of income.
It is clear that Phoolan’s family does not have the appeal to attract Nishad votes. There was crisis in the family immediately after Phoolan’s death and Amar Singh was involved with the family. All of them came together even when sisters were demanding CBI inquiry. Phoolan was murdered on July 25th, 2001 at her residence in Delhi by Sher Singh Rana who as alleged has been a regular visitor of her house. The question is if the government had wanted a CBI inquiry could have been ordered. It was clear that the power elite never wanted the truth to come out and now Phoolan’s family who suffered because of her and remained with her through their thick and thin do not have access to anything. There are numerous ethical questions too how a woman’s earning goes to her husband’s side. Cant her mother claim a part in her property ? Cant the political leaders raise this valid question as why should her mother be forced to look for work as a casual labor in this age?
As Uttar Pradesh goes for poll, political parties will make lots of promises but the one fact that reminds us of the dirty political realities is that you are worshipped when you can get votes but once you are out of scene, the political leaders can be as ruthless and without any sentiments. Despite my disagreement with Samajwadi Party leadership on various policy issues, I had heard that Mulayam Singh Yadav cares for his cadre and leaders but in the case of Phoolan Devi, his party has totally failed to protect the interest of Phoolan’s family. It is time that the party wake up and respond to the cries of a mother, whose daughter was once a star campaigner for the party.