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Another bandit queen aims at parliament

india Updated: May 07, 2007 12:33 IST

She used to be an outlaw and like the slain Phoolan Devi, whom she calls her icon, former dacoit Seema Parihar too is seeking to enter the Indian parliament.

In a political fight that went almost unnoticed in the hurly burly of the ongoing Uttar Pradesh assembly polls was the one put up by Parihar as a candidate of the Indian Justice Party in the Mirzapur Lok Sabha by-election May 3.

Seema, a first time candidate, has lots in common with Phoolan - be it her abduction by dacoits at a tender age from her economically and socially downtrodden family or the repeated abuse, rape, physical torture and forced marriage with a dreaded bandit.

It was perhaps no coincidence that Seema was contesting from the Mirzapur seat, once held by Phoolan and which is otherwise widely known as India's largest carpet manufacturing and exporting belt.

Phoolan, who was killed outside her official MP's residence in New Delhi in 2001, had won the 1996 election from Mirzapur. At that time, Seema was still ruling the ravines next to the Chambhal and Yamuna rivers along the Uttar Pradesh-Madhya Pradesh border.

It was here that little Seema who had barely touched 13 was kidnapped by the 'most wanted' bandit Lalaram, who despite being much older forced her to live with him.

Having grown up in a dacoit gang, she acquired the skills of a bandit and no sooner did Lalaram die in a police encounter than she took over the reins of the gang and proved herself as the bandit queen.

It was the birth of a boy that prompted her to quit the ravines where she had spent 18 long years.

"My son Sagar was one-and-a-half years old and I knew I would end up making him another outlaw. So I decided to lay down arms Dec 1, 2000," the now 34-year-old Seema said.

"I wish to now groom him to become a police officer," she said braving the hot sun in Bhadohi town, which is the nerve centre of the carpet industry.

There are some differences between the two dacoits though. While Phoolan was known to be brazen, arrogant, intimidating and suspicious, Seema appears soft-spoken, polite and amicable.

Also unlike Phoolan, who got the powerful political backing of Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, Seema has had to remain content with a minor political player, the Indian Justice Party, headed by former bureaucrat Udit Raj.

"Women do not take to arms on their own, they are forced to do so. And once wounded by society, they retaliate like a tigress," remarked Seema, who also played the lead in "Wounded", a film on her.

What the film's maker Krishna Misra and Seema aimed to put forth before the masses was the harsh truth of women being forcefully inducted into some notorious dacoit gangs in the ravines of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Charged in 29 cases, she has already been acquitted in 15 while bail was granted in the remaining 14 - thereby enabling her to fulfil her desire to become a lawmaker.

Among Seema's key goals is to start a rehabilitation programme for former bandits.

She is not the only politician in Uttar Pradesh to be facing criminal cases, with as many as about 1,000 candidates in the assembly polls facing criminal charges, including murder, rape and culpable homicide.

Though her chances in this Lok Sabha by-election seem bleak in the absence of support from a major political party, she has not given up. She promises to put up a tough fight for her goal in the long run.