Installing statues has become more of a political act rather than a historical one. The parody of picketing Phoolan’s statues in numerous Uttar Pradesh districts is one such instance.
POLITICS BEHIND THE CURTAINS | PARODY OF PICKETING PHOOLAN’S STATUES
Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP), a junior partner in the ruling alliance with the JD-U and the BJP came up with a brilliant idea of cutting the mustard down in the UP elections. The idea involved installing statues of late dacoit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi in 18 districts of the state.
“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.”
– Lautan ram nishad, party’s state president
In addition to Sujabad, the 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 (Minister for Animal Husbandry & Fisheries, Govt. of Bihar) in Bihar itself”, Lautan Ram stated.
PARODY OF PICKETING PHOOLAN’S STATUES
But ill-luck, VIP didn’t get successful. The Varanasi police seized statues of Phoolan Devi from the Sujabad neighbourhood since the VIP did not seek permission from the district administration and Varanasi Police Commissionerate for installing a statue or holding an event around the same.
“Local residents brought the statues to the police station. We informed the party’s office-bearers that Section 144 of the CrPC is in force in the district. The party also tendered an apology for keeping the statues (on government land) without obtaining necessary permission.”
– ACP Dinesh Singh, Kotwali
THE ONCE-DREADED “BANDIT QUEEN”
Phoolan Devi was born into a poor family in rural Uttar Pradesh. She endured poverty, child marriage and had an abusive marriage before taking to a life of crime. For 11 years, she was in jail for multiple murders, plunder, arson, and kidnapping for ransom. The respectful sobriquet ‘Devi’ was conferred upon her by the media and public at this point.
In 1994, the state government headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav of SP withdrew all charges against her. After her release, she won the election of the Member of Parliament of the Samajwadi Party from Mirzapur. Sher Singh Rana, whose kinsmen had been slaughtered by her gang earlier, shot her dead in 2001. The 1994 film Bandit Queen (made around the time of her release from jail) narrates her tale.
“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.”
– VIP’s UP in-charge Anand Yadav
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