People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 04, 2007
UNIQUE VICTORY IN AN UP VILLAGE
Struggle Makes Them Free From Terror
SHYAM DULARI is a short, thin and poor dalit woman. She keeps her head covered and bowed down. She is very diffident and rarely speaks. But when she went up to the microphone to address a large gathering in her village that had assembled to celebrate her victory in the pradhani (village chairmanship) elections, she suddenly straightened up. She spoke in a ringing tone: “I will listen to everyone. I will try to help as many people as I can. I will not surrender to the goons and if they want to kill me as they killed Ramsakhi, they can go ahead. There are many brave women in this village and they will keep contesting the elections and winning!”
Ramsakhi was Shyam Dulari’s sister-in-law (devrani, husband’s younger brother’s wife) who had been elected pradhan (village chairman) of the village, Mohammadpur Gaothi, in Fatehpur district in 2005. The seat was reserved for a dalit woman and she was the candidate of the entire village against Waliullah and his family who had kept the pradhani under their control for the last 17 years. They were also responsible for several murders and for terrorising the villagers. Waliullah, a leader and former district president of the Samajwadi Party, had put up the wife of his servant as his candidate but everyone else supported Ramsakhi who campaigned with a group of women, of all castes and communities, tirelessly. She had won by a large margin but, within a few months, she along with her husband Bulaki and her small son Udal, was shot dead by Waliullah and his supporters. An AIDWA delegation comprising its district president Shanti, state president Zarina and myself visited the village along with the CPI(M)’s district leaders. We found the villagers in a state of stunned terror. We were able to meet the district administration and pressurise them into taking action. Then they arrested all the accused, except Waliullah who was said to be absconding, and provided some police protection to his opponents. On the 13th day after the heinous murder, the entire village organised the terahavi (a death ceremony feast) along with a large public meeting. Leaders of other political parties also came and assured their support.
A few days later, the district administration nominated Waliullah’s wife, the elected deputy pradhan, as the pradhan but this was challenged in the court and protested by us. So she was not given the charge.
Witnesses in the case were subjected to threats and pressure; Ramsakhi’s family members were also terrorised. They all had to leave their home and live in another part of the village.
AIDWA and CPI(M) members, however, continued to visit the village and tried to give as much encouragement and support as they could. Needless to say, none of the other political parties in the area went there again after Ramsakhi’s terahavi and, the ruling party MLAs and ministers did everything they could, including constantly pressurising the district administration who filed false cases against several of Ramsakhi’s supporters.
Byelections to all the vacant pradhani seats in the state were announced at the end of December and Shyam Dulari courageously agreed to contest. Her own husband supported her but kept saying that these were now their last days on this earth.
The election was to be held on the 4th of January, and a huge meeting in support of Shyam Dulari was held in the village on January 2. Waliullah, supposedly absconding, was watching the meeting from a distance and tried to disrupt it many times. Not surprisingly, in the tradition of Uttar Pradesh, the station officer was sitting next to him!
The meeting was extremely successful. The entire village was decked out in red flags even though the CPI(M) had had no unit there. In fact, till a year ago, most of the inhabitants did not even know that such a party existed. But now even little children were running around with red flags in their hands and shouting “Communist Party Zindabad” or “Mahila Samiti Zindabad!” The meeting was addressed by party leaders Gaya Prasad, Narottam Singh and Bajpaiji and also Zarina, Shanti and myself. Shyam Dulari also spoke in a whisper. She told us many times that she was sure she would not live very long….
Next evening, Narottam Singh, Gaya Prasad, Zarina and Shanti camped in the village. They went around meeting people at night and telling them to vote fearlessly. The next morning, they were able to prevent booth capturing in several places. Zarina went into one house where, she was told, some supporters of Waliullah had gathered for bogus voting. She found many women wearing burqas while there was a pile of shalwars of different colours in the room. They were planning to vote several times each, changing their shalwar each time! She picked up the shalwars, berated those ‘women’ and was able to prevent them from carrying out their plan.
When the votes were finally counted, Shyam Dulari won by a big margin of 570 votes. We were able to contact the DGP, UP, immediately and she was provided security by the nightfall.
On January 10, a huge victory celebration was organised in the village. It was here that Shyam Dulari made her inspiring speech. The women decided to join the AIDWA while the young men have formed a DYFI unit here.
The story of Mohammadpur Gaothi’s united resistance to criminal assaults on dalits and democratic rights is now making waves in the entire district.