Brave Women of Badgaon

On February, 13, twenty three CPIML comrades were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in a politically motivated murder case by the Arah MP/MLA Court in Bihar. Most of those jailed are poor, landless and small farmers, who have spent their lives fighting feudal forces in Bihar.

Manoj Manzil, a Central Committee member of CPIML a popular young MLA from the Agiaon constituency is one of them. In the 2020 Vidhan Sabha election, he secured more than 62 percent of votes polled and defeated his nearest rival by more than 45 thousand votes. On the basis of his conviction, his MLAship was cancelled.

A Liberation team visited Badgaon village on 7 March 2024 to meet the life partners and relatives of those imprisoned. Their lives and story of struggles and resistance against feudal oppression reminds us of Alok Dhanwa’s famous poem ‘Bruno ki betiyan’ (Daughters of Bruno).
Next day, which was coincidentally International Working Women’s Day, the team sat to pen down the interaction with family members of Badgaon 23. What a day to pen down a note on these brave, resilient, inspiring women.

Ramsawati Devi (58): She is the wife of Com. Cheena Ram, is a leading CPIML personality in Badgaon and been a member of the party’s block committee. Her parental house is in village Nagri, block Charpokhari of Bhojpur district.

Com. Cheena Ram is in jail since 2020 as a result of cases filed against him in the course of his political struggles. In this new judgement, Com. Cheena Ram and his two younger brothers Keraram and Bharat Ram have also been convicted. Ramsawati Devi is a party member, who had been in forefront of all party activities and rallies. In 2011, she contested the election for village Mukhiya. Her father, as well as other members of her family, had been associated with CPIML.

Ramsawati Devi said that the party’s struggle for dignity and rights of the poor had always inspired her. She told us about the fateful day of 11 November 1998, when 10 people belonging to Dalit and other backward communities were killed by the Ranveer Sena in the Nagri village. All the accused were acquitted by an order of Patna High Court in March 2013. Ramsawati Devi recalled that she got married a few years before this massacre and her eldest son Amrendra Kumar had been born by the time this massacre happened. Most of those killed lived in her neighbourhood.

She fondly narrates the visits of martyred comrade Satish Yadav at their home. His wife used to campaign during the elections. She recalled her reaction to the news of Com. Satish’s killing on 20 August, 2015, when he was returning from a meeting. She quickly wound up the meeting she was attending, collected the party flags and banners, and joined the comrades in mourning.

Earlier she resided in her ancestral home, but has now shifted to a hutment near a pond, due to the lack of adequate dwelling space at the ancestral home. Her elder son is engaged and she hopes that her husband will be released on bail by the time of the marriage.

She said that she would continue to raise her voice against this politically motivated case and injustice.

Pramila Devi (45): Her husband Com. Jaykumar Yadav is a member of Agiaon block committee. Her parents’ house is in village Malpura, Karakat block of Rohtas district. She told us that her father Chandra Dev Singh, who is also a supporter of CPIML, rushed to meet her on hearing the news of the court judgement.

In 2016, she won the election for the post of village Mukhiya in Paaswa panchayat. In 2021, her husband contested for this post but lost by a thin margin. During her tenure as Mukhiya, she prioritised the construction of drainage facilities and roads, as well as the construction of houses under the Indira Awaas Yojana scheme and distribution of ration cards.

She is now facing the challenge of managing a large family consisting of the widow and daughter of her husband’s late brother, her father-in-law and mother-in-law and her 3 children. The younger brother of her husband has also been sentenced in this case. A woman of firm determination, Pramila Devi remains steadfast not only in her resolve to be part of future struggles but also to lead them.

Hemanti Devi (40): Her husband Ravindra Chowdhury as well as her father-in-law Ramadhar Chowdhury have been jailed in this case. Her parental house is in Harnatand village of Jagdishpur block, in Bhojpur district.

She is a member of CPIML. Her entire family is landless and works as farm labourers. Her two sons are married while her two daughters – Pratima and Neha – and 10-year-old son Karan, are currently pursuing education. Hemanti Devi said that people will fight and foil the conspiracy against Dalits and poor hatched by the feudal elements and BJP.

Phoolpato Devi (60): Her husband Ramadhar Chowdhury and elder son Ravindra Chowdhury have been sentenced to life imprisonment in the case. Her parental house is in Mali village of block Karpi in Arwal district. Her two brothers - Jaymangal and Munna stay there with their families. She works as a farm labour. Her entire family is a staunch supporter of the party. She proudly tell us that she attended the Jan Vishwas Rally held in Patna on March 3 and will continue to take part in the struggle for rights, dignity and justice.

Daulati Devi (52): Her husband Nand Kumar Choudhary, a member of CPIML and currently a member of the party's Panchayat committee has been sentenced in the case. Her parental house is in Navdeeha of Buxar district where the families of her three brothers – the late Pinto Choudhary, Sudama Choudhary and Jagdamba Choudhary reside.

Daulati Devi is also a party member and she was the Pradhan from 2016 to 2021. Their children as mostly employed as labourers. Daulati Devi asserted that, despite all the challenges, she and the party comrades will continue to fight against injustice.

Rajkumari Devi (50): Her father-in-law, Ramanand Prasad, aged 90 years, has been sentenced. Her ailing mother-in-law, Suvachan Devi (87) lives with her sons Shivaji Prasad and Dayanand Prasad in Delhi. Rajkumari’s husband Krishnanand Prasad died at the age of 55 due to Covid.

She is an Anganwadi Sevika. Though she has a pucca house in the village, she is unable to stay there as it is in a Rajput locality and they constantly threaten and intimidate. Currently, she stays on government land. She said that the case filed against her father-in-law and others is a political conspiracy and she will continue to raise her voice against this injustice.

Tetri Devi (50): Her husband Triloki Ram and his two brothers Cheena Ram and Bharat Ram are imprisoned in the case. Her parental house is in Amhruan village of Sahar block, district Bhojpur. This village is next to the well-known Ekwari village, where the flame of resistance was lit in 70s which then the engulfed Bhojpur. Her husband was a construction worker while she earns a living by working as a farm labourer. They does not own agricultural land.

Her parental family has long been associated with the party. Her elder son works in the railways while her other three sons and her lone daughter Kusum Kumari are college students. Tetra Devi is worried about their education and future. The entire family is bearing the brunt of the sentence, but are determined to fight for justice.

Baby Devi (35): Her husband Gabbar Choudhary was a brick kiln worker and imprisoned in the case. Her parental home is in the neighbouring village of Poswan. She, along with her son and mother in-law work as farm labourers. She asserted, “Our entire family supports CPIML. We have stood with the party and will continue to do so in the future”.

Prabhavati Devi (52): Her husband Shivbali Choudhary is in jail. Both of them are farm labourers. Her parental house is in Kanui of Jagdishpur block. She recalled about Comrades Juit (Totaman Paswan) and Comrade Sahtu, who embraced martyrdom in her village. She stays with her widowed daughter and two grandchildren. She is worried about her husband, but she said she will continue to seek justice.

Chinta Devi (38): Her husband Pawan Chaudhary, who is jailed in the case used to work as a driver. Chinta Devi works as a farm labourer.  Her parental house is in Devradh of Jagdishpur block.

Kalawati Devi (55): Her husband Tanman Chowdhury is a member of CPIML block committee. Her parental house is in Diliyan Tola of Jagdishpur block. She has no homestead land of her own and stays on government land. All her four sons are labourers. She is worried about her future as she has no earning of her own.

Phoolpato Devi (54): Her husband is Rambali Choudhary. Her parental house is in Kanui village of Jagdishpur block. She doesn’t own any agricultural land and her husband used to work on leased land. She worked as a labourer in the farms. Their daughter Anjali Kumari is studying in class 8.

Binda Devi (50): Her husband Prem Ram, who is in jail, is a member of the panchayat committee of CPIML. Her parental house is in Sikriyan of Agiaon block. Her three sons are farm labourers and stay elsewhere with their families. She is a farm labourer and stays on government land as she is landless. She stays with her daughter Kajal Kumari who has appeared for the Matriculation examination. She is distressed because her husband in jail, but hope that he will be released soon.

Phoola Devi (40): Her husband is Manoj Chaudhary. Her parental house is in Gulzarbagh of Karpi block. The family has a small amount of land, where they live.

Badgaon: A Saga of Struggle

Eighty year old Bhinik Ram has six sons, three of them are among Badgaon-23 who have been given life sentences. He says that the CPIML had been working in this village since the 70s. He was arrested once by the police back then on a false charge of murder, and was set free later. The founding leaders of CPIML in Bhojpur region, comrades Jagadish Master and Rameshwar Yadav used to visit this village and his home.
Much Rajput caste lumpens of this village, led by Guddu Singh, Lavkush Singh and Bam Singh, had joined Ranvir Sena. Toiling dalit people of Badgaon faced and valiantly resisted many attacks by the Ranvir Sena, and made sacrifices.
In 2006-07 a piece of community land was freed from the illegal occupation of feudals of the village and redistributed to 110 landless families belonging to Mahadalit, Bind and Kahar castes. This was a struggle involving huge mass participation. The District Magistrate and Senior Superintendent of Police along with a huge force had to make a retreat in face of massive mobilisation. The police, colluding with feudals, had come to demolish the newly built huts.
In face of the growing unity of the poor toiling dalits, then mukhiya of the village and leader of upper caste feudals, Rinku Singh, with his gang murdered CPIML leader and a popular leader Comrade Satish Yadav in August 2015. Comrade Satish was ambushed when returning home after attending a public meeting. They then conspiratorially implicated 23 party cadres and supporters in the murder of one Jaiprakash Singh, whose dead body was not even recovered. The criminals tried to divert the attention from the heinous killing of Comrade Satish Yadav by lodging this false case.
Poor and dalits in the village understood this conspiracy quite well and responded by giving a decisive mandate to CPIML candidates in the panchayat elections held next year in Badgaon and nearby Poswan and Karwasi panchayats.
This year in January and February people of Badgaon and Poswan organised the party's Panchayat conferences with enthusiasm. The Badgaon CPIML Panchayat committee members Prem Ram, Nandkumar Chaudhary and Prabhu Chaudhary and Poswan Party Panchayat committee member Jaikumar Yadav are now in jail in this motivated false case.
The poor of Badgaon are anguished and upset, but they are also determined to take their struggle for dignity, land and equality to newer heights. CPIML, the voice of the poor and working people in Bhojpur, is conducting an intensive mass contact campaign among the poor and dalit masses in the region.
Brave Women of Badgaon