For two hours on a weekday afternoon in Sunder Nagri, shops went quiet and busy streets became deserted as people gathered inside a small shamyana. On stage, men and women alike wept in her memory as a political party unveiled its women’s wing. One year after she died, AAP leader Santosh Koli still makes a difference in the cramped bylanes of Sunder Nagri.
On June 30 last year, 10 days after she was made the AAP candidate in Seemapuri, the scooter Koli was riding was hit by a truck in Ghaziabad. The AAP cried foul and said she had been threatened and attacked in the past as well. The errant driver was never found. Since her death, her legend has only grown.
For residents of Sunder Nagri, Koli was more than their MLA candidate. She was one of them — someone who grew up in a small household where money was hard to come by but who took on challenges bigger than her small frame.
“She was very young when she joined Parivartan and along with Arvind Kejriwal took on the ration mafia using the RTI Act.
There were attempts on her life, but even when we got worried she told us fear had no place in her life. She may have died, but children here are told her stories. We tell them that she became an activist and then a leader, from humble beginnings,” Prahlad Singh, an auto-rickshaw driver, said.
“Kejriwal had chosen her home as the spot for his fast during the ‘bijli paani andolan’. The support she had was such that, even after her death, when the AAP nominated her brother for the Seemapuri seat, he emerged successful,” a senior AAP leader said.
On Thursday, an emotional video tribute to Koli’s work in taking on corruption was screened and children of the locality staged a play. Her teary-eyed parents, Kalawati and Ranvir, spoke of her courage. Her brother, MLA Dharmendra Singh, could not bring himself to speak at all.
AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal said, “Today is not a day for speeches. I want to announce the formation of the women’s wing of the AAP, Aap Ki Mahila Shakti, which will not work for votes but for the upliftment and protection of women across the city,” he said.