Nondescript Khijradev village near Bhopal has a Peepli Live moment with growing media buzz around it since its sarpanch had tipped off the police about eight SIMI escapees that led to their killing at a hillock in neighbouring Manikhedi on October 31.
Sarpanch Mohan Singh Meena was among the first to spot the fugitives who broke out of high-security Bhopal Central Jail after killing a prison guard.
He soon informed the police about their movement and even trailed the eight along with a group of villagers.
The SIMI operatives were gunned down by police in an alleged encounter. Since then, the villagers say, their mundane life has changed. So much so that many of them now even started grooming themselves on how to face media.
“Some of us have even prepared ourselves about how to talk to journalists when we encounter them in the village. We are also regularly following reports about the incident on the news channels and newspapers,” said a villager, Jitendra Meena (24).
Meena said they eagerly flipped through channels and newspapers to find whether their names and photos featured there.
Most of the village’s 800 residents are farmers, who never expected the spotlight would be turned on their village ala Peepli of the famous Bollywood satirical film produced by Amir Khan in 2010.
Another Khijradev resident, identified only by his first name, Deshraj (38) told HT that they had never thought the village would be at the centre of so much attention.
He said media people and police almost regularly visit Khijradev to get the eyewitness accounts of the operatives “journey through the village.”
“Even some curious tourists occasionally drop in to visit the nearby encounter site,” he added.
However, not everyone in the village is amused by its new-found attention. Many apprehend such limelight could have a negative repercussion and try to down play the village’s supposed heroic act of helping police in gunning down the eight.
“It was just a coincidence that the slain SIMI men passed through this village and some of the villagers, who were working in their fields, spotted them. Initially they didn’t even know their identities. Only when police asked whether they had seen eight men, they gave an affirmative answer, which is very natural,” Manilal Ahirwar, another resident of the village, said while watering his field.