|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
This 'bandit queen' wants to be lawmaker
Sharat Pradhan in Mirzapur | May 07, 2007 15:20 IST
Among the many white-collared criminals seeking to become lawmakers at the ongoing staggered elections in Uttar Pradesh, is a unique woman who aspires to don the mantle of 'Phoolan Devi' -- the bandit queen-turned-parliamentarian, who was later gunned down.
Seema Parihar too has a background very much like her icon Phoolan and seeks to enter Parliament through a bye-election for which polling was held in Mirzapur along with the on-going elections on May 3.
Undaunted by the bleak chances of winning in the absence of support by any major political party, she has not given up hope.
She has lots in common with Phoolan -- be it abduction by dacoits at a tender age of 13 from her economically and socially downtrodden family or being a victim of repeated abuse, rape and physical torture by men, or forced marriage with a dreaded bandit.
It was not sheer coincidence that Seema too was contesting from the Mirzapur Lok Sabha seat, once held by the senior bandit queen and otherwise widely known as India's largest carpet manufacturing and exporting belt.
Phoolan won the 1996 election from Mirzapur Lok Sabha seat until she was gunned down outside her official residence in New Delhi in 2001, while Seema was still ruling the ravines of Chambhal and Yamuna along the UP-Madhya Pradesh border.
It was in Mirzapur that little Seema who had barely turned into her teens, was kidnapped by then 'most wanted' bandit Lalaram, who despite being much older forced her to live with him. Having grown up in a dacoit gang, she acquired the skills of a bandit and no sooner than Lalaram was gunned down in a police encounter, she took over the reins of the gang and proved herself as the 'bandit queen.'
Eventually, the birth of a boy prompted her to quit the ravines where she had spent 18 long years.
The only difference that appears between the two bandit queens was in their mannerisms. While Phoolan was known as a brazen, arrogant, intimidating and suspicious, Seema appears to be a much 'easier' person -- soft, polite and amicable.
Also unlike Phoolan, who received a powerful political backing of someone like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, Seema had to remain content with a minor political player -- Indian Justice Party, headed by former bureaucrat Udit Raj, who quit the Indian Revenue Service at a young age to venture into public life.
"Women do not take to arms on their own; they are forced to do so; and once wounded by society, they retaliate like a tigress," remarked Seema, who also did the lead role in 'Wounded,' a film in which she played her own self.
It was film-maker Krishna Misra who ventured into this unique project with the support of Film Foundation of India. What Misra and Seema aimed to put forth before the masses was a little known fact and yet a harsh truth -- that several women had been inducted into some notorious dacoit gangs in the ravines of UP and MP.
Charged in 29 cases, she has already been acquitted in 15 while bail has been granted to her by the court in the remaining 14, thereby enabling her to fulfill her cherished desire to become a lawmaker.
Among Seema's key goal is to start a rehabilitation programme for former bandits.However, she is not the only politician in Uttar Pradesh to be facing criminal cases. As many as about 1,000 persons in the fray for the seven-phased state assembly poll, concluding on May 8, are facing criminal charges including murder, attempt to murder, rape, culpable homicide, extortion and kidnapping.
Traditionally, politics in this North Indian state has witnessed much presence of persons with muscle-power that comes in handy for their rise to political heights.