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Railways Remove Phoolan Devi's Picture From Wall, Trigger Row

The local Mallah community to which Phoolan Devi belonged took offence, while Rajput leaders asked why her picture figured on the wall in the first place.


Updated:April 16, 2019, 10:30 PM IST
Railways Remove Phoolan Devi's Picture From Wall, Trigger Row
File photo of late bandit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi.

Indore: A controversy erupted here on Tuesday after the railway administration removed a picture of bandit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi from a boundary wall.

The local Mallah community took offence, while the Rajput leaders asked why her picture figured on the wall in the first place.

The picture of Phoolan Devi on the boundary wall of the local railway station was painted over on April 13.

It was among the pictures of 35 eminent women, including Mother Teresa and the Queen of Jhansi Rani Laxmi Bai, painted on the wall.

Ratlam Rail Division's Divisional Railway Manager R L Sunkar said that after the administration learned about "the controversial picture" of Phoolan Devi, it was removed.

A private university has painted pictures of eminent women on the boundary wall in a bid to beautify the railway station under a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative, he said.

"The agency working under CSR has been told strictly not to paint a picture of any personality without approval of the railway administration," Sunkar said.

But the action did not go down well with the local Mallah (boatmen) community, to which Phoolan Devi belonged.

President of the Madhya Pradesh Manjhi Machhua and Adivasi Mahasangh Chandra Shekhar Raikwar said, "It is very unfortunate that the picture was removed. Our community's delegation would soon meet railway officials and demand that it be restored."

Phoolan Devi's life was the story of a woman's struggle, he said.

"She took up arms against atrocities. She reached Parliament after winning an election, leaving the life of a bandit behind. We will not tolerate an insult to her," he said.

On the other hand, members of the local Rajput community questioned why she merited the honour of having her picture painted on a railway wall.

Patron of the Indore Unit of the All India Kshatriya Mahasabha Mohan Sengar said, "The Railways should tell us what remarkable work Phoolan Devi had done for society which led it to issue the permission to paint her picture along with that of great women like Rani Laxmi Bai and Mother Teresa."

After leaving behind her life as a leader of a gang of dacoits, Phoolan Devi entered politics and was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1999. She was shot dead outside her house in Delhi in July 2001.

Her life story became the subject of an acclaimed film directed by Shekhar Kapur and starring Seema Biswas.

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