NAGPUR-29 th September 2009
as expected kalavati bandurkar icon of vidarbha agrarian crisis has succumbed to pressure of losing Rs.30 lac aid from sulbha international and congress party as she was known as Rahul Gandhi's Kalavati after he visited her hut and referred her plights
kishore tiwari of vidarbha janandolan samti has given chronological account of the events of her candidature in press note saying that on 5th September 2009 we called a meeting of Vidarbha farm widows mostly from Yavatmal district, and around 200 farm widows attended it. The meeting decided to demand:
1. Food for the dying families
2. Family pension to all widows
3. Free higher education, and aid for marriage of their daughters.
4. Right of land owned by their husband. Deprived of this right, most widows are forced to leave their homes.
The reason why the VJAS was trying to field a candidate in the coming elections was because the issue is being ignored by the State administration, and hence getting into the election process would have provided an opportunity to draw attention to these critical issues.
It was decided that as Kalawati Bandurkar is well-known, she was best suited for the task. After 8 days of making the choice known to her, Kalawati called me to inform that she is ready to contest provided her health permits.
It was only then that we announced her candidature, which was a breaking news. As Rahul Gandhi’s Kalawati, her name drew more than 200 journalists to interview her, hundreds of article and newsreports in media, and evoked concern in the political circles mainly in the Congress party, finally forcing her to change her decision.
Also, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak of Sulabh International wrote a letter to her asking her not to contest election. This was a major jolt to her as she is still awaiting to receive the entire Rs 30 lakhs that Pathak had promised to provide to her as aid (she has got Rs 6 lakh by now). Kalawati therefore announced the change in her thinking, and withdrew from the race.
Before that, Kalawati had come to Nagpur and clarified the stand that her contest is symbolic and the plight of farm widows and farm suicide issues should be taken up. She had announced that she would be filing her nomination on Sept 25.
This announcement brought more pressure on her. She withdrew later, after her own son-in-law threatened to commit suicide if she contested. VJAS therefore replaced her with Babitai Bais. I don't know why senior activists from some sections of the society are criticizing us for using these innocent widows to raise voice of farmers.
I also draw your attention to an elaborate interview of Kalawati published by the Times of India on Sept 27, 2009. This will help bring the issue to those who have not been able to follow the spate of developments involving Kalawati, and also help those who are outside India to put this blog in right perspective.
"We have decided that this time, a Vidarbha farmer's widow must be elected to the Assembly. It will be our way of tribute to the memory of over 7,000 debt-ridden farmers who committed suicide in the region. In September alone, 10 farmers killed themselves in Yavatmal district where over 1,600 people have died so far," VJAS President Kishore Tiwari said.
He reiterated that VJAS will make a serious attempt to "empower" the widows and farmers orphans of Vidarbha. He added that if a widow is elected from there then she will be their face in the Assembly.