In her faded sari and her dusty feet with cleft heels, 56-year vintage Sukhantibai of Handitola village in Chhattisgarh’s Rajnandgaon district examines like yet another poor Adivasi woman living in an underdeveloped district.
But hidden behind the look, is a woman of iron will who from a ranch laborer, has increased to the grade of a Sarpanch and now leads a town in the midst of the storming Government vs. Maoist conflict.
Sukhantiba – early signs of selflessness
Sukhantibai is an ideal foremost whose selfless service to persons has won her respect from all, encompassing the Maoists.
Her article of that transformation is fascinating: In 2005, a villager, a Dalit man – had dangled himself in Handitola. By the time the body was discovered, it was on the verge of decomposing. But no one challenged go beside him; for some, the man was an ‘untouchable’, while other ones were simply scared.
Then, Sukhantibai came with a sickle in her hand and, even as the whole town gazed in worry and awe, stood upon a stool, slash the cord and let down the body. A couple of days later, the villagers unanimously chosen Sukhantibai, a Gond Adivasi woman and the most courageous of them all – as their Sarpanch.
Although, adjacent honesty, there are other features that characterize Sukhantibai: love for serving persons, selflessness, and bravery unlimited. As a poor landless tribal woman, an unmarried Sukhantibai worked as a laborer in the house of the ‘Patel’ – the most wealthy man in her village. The village then had no electricity, no streets and no tap water.
However, her work for the welfare began long before she even became a Sarpanch. In 1995, on discovering that Leprosy, a feared disease in her community was curable, she coordinated some health bivouacs with the help of the villagers. In each bivouac, she cleaned and swathed the cuts of those who had advanced case of leprosy, before distributing amidst them surgery which she had assembled from the impede clinic. While she discovered the joy of serving persons through this, villagers found out in her a Good Samaritan and furthermore a dutiful female child of the community.
Today, as the Sarpanch, she sustains that camaraderie with the villagers, putting their troubles before her own. For demonstration, the house that she inhabits in now was acquired from the Patel, who she one time worked for. But, even after 15 long years, he denies to move the ownership of the land in her family’s name, easily because he doesn’t think as an Adivasi she or her family has a right to own land.
Eventually, she has a dream for the women of her town, who she likes to step out of their life behind the curtains. States Sukhantibai, ‘10 years ago, no one of our girls would step out-of-doors their homes. Today, they are running stores and enterprises.
As a state, Chhattisgarh may often be in the news for aggression and confrontations, but right in the middle of this confrontation zone stands Suhkantibai a barefoot fighter who fights against foes like illiteracy, poverty and deprivation with the only weapons she has: goodwill, honesty and love.