Parvatiya Gandhi’s wife does not share Uttarakhand’s hour of glory

Dehradun : As the state capital lights up to celebrate its 12th Statehood Day, in the courtyard of a house in Uttarakhand Colony in Muni-ki-Reti, in the holy city of Rishikesh, about 50 kms from here, sits a frail 85-year-old widow, with pieces of strings round her ears attached to the spectacles, to keep them in place in place, with a distant look in her remorseful eyes.

She is neither disillusioned, nor disheartened, but having been ignored all these 12 years, she prefers not even thinking of the days, when that very courtyard of hers would be brimming over with statehood agitationists, planning their next move, as she provided them with glass fulls of water and cupfuls of tea.

Indramani Badoni

Yes, she is Soorji Devi, wife of the late Indramani Badoni, often referred to as the ‘Parvatiya Gandhi’ (Gandhi of the Hills) and whose life-size statue stands at the Clock Tower crossing in the heart of the city.

And the frail old woman, who provided the much needed moral support and food to the agitationists, in her twilight years is neither being given the agitationist pension, nor the old age pension to sustain herself.

It is another story that she does not want to go with a begging bowl to the people who were now here to be seen during the struggle and agitation for Uttarakhand, but are now sitting at the helm of affairs in the state and calling the shots, for it would not only be below her dignity, but would also lower the esteem of her husband, on whose statue laying bouquets and wreaths on Statehood Day has become a ritual.

Forget old-age or widow or agitationist pension, she has been sending application after application that the wire on the electricity pole near her house be fastened properly, as the wire snaps when ever there is a strong velocity wind and there is power failure in her house, but there is no one to pay heed.

She recalls the hours that she would spend in the kitchen, as her husband, who underwent many hunger strikes and fasts for achieving statehood for Uttarakhand, sitting on the cot in the courtyard planning the next move with his followers for statehood, making tea and food for the volunteers, some of whom had travelled miles to be a part of the agitation.

No one has given a thought of being with Soorji and ask her whether her late husband had shared any views with her on what the future of the state will be like.

She recalls that she would spend days waiting for the arrival of Indramani Badoni, who would be touring the hinterlands of the hill districts of then Uttar Pradesh, mustering support for what he called Uttaranchal, but is now called Uttarakhand.

She neither has tears for the sad plight in which the state is, nor that the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal which had spearheaded the agitation with her husband has now splintered into various factions and is no longer the party of the hearts of the hill people.

Though somewhere within, her heart cries that the people who struggled for the state, faced the lathis and bullets of the police and PAC, have been sent to oblivion by the opportunist few who are now ruling the roost.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

1 Comment

  • Badoni Ji would have been of 88 years of age today,had he not been deprived of the medical attention at Delhi years ago. I had seen him at Lansdowne in 1968 & later at Jehrikhal. A dynamic personality who had love for everything Uttarakhandi-much beyond the confines of Region,Caste, Creed & Religion.During my treks to Garhwal when I toured the interiors with my Bhulas, tales & folk lores of Tilu Rauteli & Madho Singh Maletha were most predominant ,when after a hectic day’s march in the hills, we used to sit down next to a borne fire with Dram ,Kachmoli & Bhotua. I remember that Badoni Ji was instrumental in organising an exclusive Ballet on Madho Singh Bhandati at Maletha. He used to narrate the sacrifices made by Madho Singh for getting water from Chandrabhaga to his village.Veer Madho Singh had even sacrificed his son for the cause of his people. Badoni Ji was a true incarnation of Veer Madho Singh Bhandari who too sacrificed his life for creation of Uttarakhand. An orator par excellence, an honest politician, a simple human being,a leader beyond compare ,& above all ,a self less person,he would have been a sad man seeing the present state of affairs.Very few people know that he was also an explorer.It was he who discovered the source of Bhilangana-the Khatling Glacier.I salute you Badoni Ji. You have been a great inspiration to all of us.It hurts so much when one reads the condition of Badoni Ji’s wife Shrimati Soorji Devi. We call our selves inhabitants of Dev Bhumi & Veer Bhumi. Is this the culture we have derived from this noble land ?Are we so heart less ? What culture,traditions,’sanskars’ etc ,we are talking about when we cannot even look after this Legendary Figure ,who has in her own way ,helped in getting us the Statehood ! Is our Govt sleeping ? Where is our Sanskriti Department ?Where have all our historians vanished? It is a matter of shame for all of us. I appeal to the Chief Minister to intervene immediately.

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