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Since 1st March, 1999
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Din over cows drowns anti-graft suicide bid

Bhopal, Feb. 17: Cow protection and the Bhojshala dispute today drowned pleas in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly to discuss the plight of a tribal woman sarpanch who resorted to suicide to escape paying a bribe.

Independent MLA Dr Suneelam kept demanding a call attention and adjournment motion on Sukhia Bai, sarpanch of Gugrel village in Betul district. But he was thrown out of the House and suspended for a week.

Sukhia Bai, who suffered 80 per cent burns, is now fighting for life in a city hospital. According to Sukhia’s declaration, she was told to cough up Rs 4,000 to get a well constructed.

Outside the House, Suneelam, along with MLAs Shabnam Mausi and Congress’ “rebel with a cause” Kalpana Purelkar, said: “I wanted to inform the Assembly how an adivasi woman sarpanch was forced to commit suicide when a sub-engineer demanded a bribe from her.” The trio bitterly complained about what they dubbed “majorityism”. Suneelam said he was simply trying to draw chief minister Digvijay Singh’s attention to the “rampant corruption” in the state.

Speaker Srineevas Tiwari, however, did not take kindly to Suneelam’s effort. He suspended the MLA for a week when he rushed to the well of the House after being repeatedly told there was no provision for an adjournment motion.

Purelkar, already served a showcause for championing the cause of daily-wage earners and protesting high power tariffs, said she was sad and angry at today’s developments. “I am sad because politicians cutting across party lines showed indifference towards a hapless tribal woman. And I am angry because inspite of being an MLA, I cannot change things,” she said.

Shabnam Mausi said if the “majorityism” continued, she would think again about attending the House.

The state government has ordered an inquiry and suspended two officials who allegedly demanded the bribe.

In the budget session of the House, Digvijay sought to focus on the 11th century monument at Bhojshala in Dhar and warned the Hindu Jagran Manch against forcing its way into the monument tomorrow. The state, he said, would enforce the rule of law.

Digvijay said he advised the Dhar district collector to convene an all-party meeting to find an amicable solution to the Bhojshala dispute.

The all-party meeting was decided on after Digvijay received a letter from Union tourism and culture minister Jagmohan that sought the state’s views on the dispute. “As the matter pertains to law and order in Dhar, we have advised the collector to convene an all-party meet to arrive at a consensus on this issue,” Digvijay said. “I expect the report (of the meeting) in about a fortnight’s time.”

Local Muslims consider Bhojshala a mosque where they have been allowed to pray every Friday. The Hindu Jagran Manch, however, claims it is an ancient Hindu temple dedicated to goddess Saraswati. The monument is under the Archaeological Survey of India’s jurisdiction.

On February 6 and 7, the Manch had organised a protest gathering at Bhojshala. The state BJP is eyeing the dispute as a likely plank for the coming Assembly polls. Today, leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Babu Lal Gaur led the BJP’s noisy walkout against the Digvijay regime’s failure to protect cows.

The BJP, Gaur said, would support “Hindu cause” across the country, including the Bhojshala dispute, hinting at the party’s support to the Manch stand.

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