BASTAR: Both of them were ordinary women leading life of home-maker and a school teacher, both have lost close family members due to Maoist insurgency in Bastar, both were clueless about rough and tumble of politics, one woman now serves as Congress legislator from Dantewada another as Aam Aadmi Party leader. With tragic past, on one hand while one is emerging as a powerful tribal leader another struggles hard to achieve her target to educate each child in her constituency.
For years, 52-year-old Devati Karma, wife of slain Congress leader Mahendra Karma who was killed in Maoist ambush in May, 2013, had served as an uneducated housewife looking after home, husband, children and kitchen and “not even in my worst imagination, I saw myself into politics,” Devati said.
She speaks honestly about how learning politics was like knowing a foreign language, though she remembers little bit of ‘rajniti’ Karma used to discuss with people, which she overheard while serving tea and snacks. Married at the age of 15, an ordinary tribal woman Devati who looks shy while interacting, is more fluent with Gondi dialect than in Hindi.
“After him, it was people’s wish who insisted that I should inherit what he had left unfinished and soon I was nominated by Congress to contest for Dantewada assembly seat. He never shared details of politics with me, I was clueless. But destiny took me from my house to political house, with purely people’s support,” Devati said.
Being on the hit-list of Maoists, Karma family has been given Z-Plus security cover and being in power in insurgency area is always a risky drive for Devati.
She practices her speech and questions to be asked in assembly in Hindi language and gains confidence after speaking it before her daughter Ranu Karma. Ranu who assists her 24×7, helps her with correct pronunciation of words and makes it an easy speech for her. “Devati in her one and half years of politics, has now emerged as one of the most bold woman in Congress to ask questions and speak up during in state assembly,” said Vimal Surana, district president in Dantewada.
With population of 1.84 lakh people in her remote and backward constituency, Devati is presently working to facilitate basic amenities of water, electricity and education to all. Villages are located in interiors and have no roads, by the time my time is over as legislator here, I will arrange for education of each child here and get electricity and water to each house.
GEEDAM, BASTAR: A tribal school teacher born in Jabeli village of Dantewada who was arrested in 2011 on charges of acting as conduit for Maoists and released later in 2013, Soni Sori had alleged of sexual assault by police during her imprisonment in has turned not only into a political leader of Aam Aadmi Party but is also emerging as a powerful tribal front-runner in Bastar.
Sori is now a member of Aam Aadmi Party, though she contested in 2014 general elections but lost to Dinesh Kashyap of the BJP, could get only one vote due to Maoist insurgency in the region.
Learning a hard lesson, Sori feels that the struggle of three-four years has transformed her from a simple school teacher in government school to an aggressive and defensive leader for tribals. “My journey from school to four jails, hospitals and court has given me new life. With support from activists across the globe, energy was injected in me to contest polls and even after losing, I stand tall to fight for tribals who suffer similar torture and forced into jails.”
“In the last five months, Sori has become voice of tribal in Bastar region. Tribal population often go through atrocities of police and false arrest on suspicion of being Maoist supporters or sympathizers. There was no person who could provide them aid but it is for the first time in history of Bastar that tribals take out intensive mass protest (upto 40,000) on unjust arrest of tribal people,” a local tribal said.
With recent unity seen among tribals, Sori feels that the gap between elections and present status has brought big change and she claims, “If polls take place today, I will surely win with most tribal population in my favour.”