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Dacoits' dagger over reformed dacoit

Lucknow, April 8: Fifteen years in the Chambal ravines and three years in jail did not unnerve Seema Parihar. A film and six months of 'normal life' later, the bandit is shaken.

The 38-year-old Parihar, who stars in Wounded, a film based on her life, is being threatened by Nirbhay Gujjar, who now leads her gang, for 'defaming the lives of dacoits'.

The mother of 13-year-old Swagat, Parihar has rushed to chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav's door for help.

Dressed in an off-white salwar-kurta and sporting a long black tilak on her forehead, the only trace of her bandit days, she arrived here accompanied by Wounded director Krishna Mishra.

'For the last three months, I am being threatened. Had I been in the ravines, I would have taught them a lesson with my weapons. They understand the language of the gun better.

'But I cannot go back. I am a changed woman now. I have a son to bring up. I won't be provoked by them, but I am a bit scared,' she says.

Nirbhay's letterhead ' it reads 'Dasyu Samrat Nirbhay Gujjar from Chambal Ghanti' ' has found its way to the director's mailbox as well.

Police have been of little help. 'I don't know why the same police officers who had cooperated with me earlier when the film was being shot have now developed cold feet,' the director complains.

In his letters, Nirbhay has objected to his portrayal as a 'small sepoy' in Lalaram's gang in his initial years.

Parihar claims this is true. 'He indeed was a small-time member of the gang, and he used to be kicked around by everybody.'

But Chambal is not Mishra's only cause of worry ' Wounded has been stuck at the censor board, which has objected to 50 slang words used in the film.

Parihar defends her director, saying that unlike Shekhar Kapoor's Bandit Queen, based on Phoolan Devi, she has acted as the first line of censor for Wounded. 'There were some sequences which looked exaggerated. I asked Mishraji to drop those scenes.'

Asked if she is tempted to shoot off the swear words she mouths in the film at the censor board members who have stalled the film's release, Parihar says an emphatic no.

'I am a law abiding citizen. All I will say is that we will knock at the door of the court against the censor's stand,' Parihar says.

The reformed bandit is undecided about her future.

'I am going back to my village. I have not decided about the future. But much of my life's priorities are conditioned by my son's interests. He is in Class VIII now and good in studies, thank God. I want to make him a doctor so that he can serve the poor in the ravines,' she says.

The words seem a far cry from dacoitspeak. As a social worker puts it: 'It is the voice of a mother, the dacoit in her is dead.'

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