July 25, 2021 12:40:39 am
Eyeing the Nishad votes in the forthcoming Assembly elections, the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) has announced that it will install statues of late dacoit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi in 18 districts of the state and will observe the death anniversary of the former ‘Bandit Queen’ every year on July 25.
Phoolan Devi, who belonged to the Nishad community (represented by boatmen and fisherfolk) was elected MP on a Samajwadi Party ticket from Mirzapur. She was assassinated in July, 2001.
The party, which is a junior partner in the ruling alliance with the Janata Dal (United) and the Bharatiya Janata Party in neighbouring Bihar, said it will install statues of the one-time dreaded bandit in districts where the Nishads hold sway and can even tip the outcome of elections.
On Friday, Varanasi police seized statues of Phoolan Devi after locals raised objection to its installation in the Nishad-dominated Sujabad neighbourhood. Assistant Commissioner of Police, Kotwali, Dinesh Singh said the VIP did not seek permission of the district administration and Varanasi Police Commissionerate for installing a statue or holding an event around the same. Local residents raised objection as the statues were allegedly kept on government land, next to a temple of Lord Shiva, in the Sujabad area.
“Local residents brought the statues to the police station. We informed party’s office bearers that Section 144 of the CrPC is in force in the district and this kind of act should not be repeated again. The party also tendered an apology for keeping the statues (on government land) without obtaining necessary permission,” Singh said.
Mukesh Sahani, the minister for animal husbandry and fisheries in the Bihar government who also heads the VIP, launched the party’s Uttar Pradesh unit on July 2.
The party’s state president Lautan Ram Nishad said, “It was during our launch in UP that we decided to observe the ‘Shahadat Diwas’ (Martyrdom Day) of Phoolan Devi on July 25 by putting her statues in 18 different districts. Her struggle for a dignified living remains an inspiration for women.”
Other districts which the party has picked for installing the statues include Sant Ravidas Nagar, Gorakhpur, Mirzapur, Maharajganj, Prayagraj, Auraiya, Agra and Ballia. “In none of these districts did the administration allow us to install the statues which were sculpted by artists from Mumbai at the residence of Mukesh Sahani in Bihar. Painted in gold and 18-feet tall, the statues were moved to 18 districts of UP four days ago,” Lautan Ram said.
“We planned to hold ‘Shahadat Diwas’ of Phoolan Devi following the Covid-19 protocol but the government did not allow us to do so. We will be observing the day at our private properties,” he added.
Even 20 years after her death, Phoolan Devi is likely to be at the front and centre of the UP polls, as the VIP, through its plan to install her statues, is keen to revive her legacy and win over the Nishad community.
The party’s UP in-charge Anand Yadav claimed they had sent letters to the district administration, seeking permission to install her statues at private properties but the matter is still pending.
“We decided to install Phoolan Devi’s statues because she was a revolutionary who embodied the strength and resilience of women. We carry forward her ideologies and tell people how she fought for social acceptance and empowerment of the Nishad community,” Yadav said.
Sahani said the idea behind installing Phoolan Devi’s statues is to remind people how a village woman fought against the perpetrators of crime and eventually reached the Parliament.
“We would fight for the rights and reservation of the Nishad people. Our party would contest 165 seats in the forthcoming Uttar Pradesh elections,” he added.
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