The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Minister affair: search for Indira in today’s Jenni

Chapakhowa (Assam), June 23: Perhaps nothing in the tin-and-mud home which Indira Deori, alias Jenni, left last September speaks more eloquently than the layers of dust and cobwebs on old rag dolls that line a wooden rack. They speak of the left-behind innocence of a young girl.

Twenty-two-year-old Jenni, the eldest of Jawahar and Anima Deori’s six children, and a matriculate, was not only the pride of her family but the entire village, given the poor literacy rate among the women of the Deori tribe.

Jenni shot into limelight with her recent revelation in Dehra Dun that Uttaranchal revenue minister Harak Singh Rawat, who resigned after the scandal erupted, is the father of her newborn child.

Her disclosure cost Rawat his job and left many red faces in the Congress government there.

Jenni’s claim that she is the daughter of a politician, Jawahar Jyoti Deori, was met with scepticism in her home state Assam as well as in Uttaranchal.

An activist, known for his Congress leanings, had said over phone from Dehra Dun last week: “The first lie was about the identity of the father of her baby...yet another lie now is about the identity of her own father.”

The comment should be taken with a pinch of salt because the Congress is the affected party here. Besides, Jenni did not lie about her family.

In the dusty pages in the Election Commission office in Guwahati lies a vital piece of the jigsaw puzzle: Jawahar Jyoti Deori, a small-time trader, had contested Assembly polls from the Sadiya constituency unsuccessfully in 1991, 1996 and 2001 as an Independent.

His address to the commission was given as hospital Chariali, Chapakhowa police station, Sadiya sub-division, Tinsukia district. Getting there is a long, strenuous journey via road, water and 5 km on foot.

In the ramshackle four-room Deori home — it has electricity and a phone that is out of order — the family is still trying to come to terms with the truth about its “simple and composed” Indira.

Tears rolled down the cheeks of mother Anima, 43, as she narrated the trauma after the Uttaranchal episode became public. “It came as a shock to us when some policemen from the Chapakhowa outpost came to our house and asked about her. They told us my daughter’s deeds have caused a minister to lose office...”

“She may not be very beautiful, but she was charming nonetheless. She left home saying she was going off to see one of her friends,” Anima said.

The family members, however, are unaware of Jenni’s confession that she had eloped with someone named Babloo and reached Delhi in September last year. Babloo allegedly disappeared, leaving her to fend for herself in an unknown place.

Asked if they had lodged a complaint with police after Jenni went missing, Anima said: “We did not want the matter to become public and hoped she would come back after some days.”

Jenni’s father made “numerous attempts” to trace her, but failed. He left home in October, a month after Jenni, to enter the coal business in Meghalaya.

“He keeps sending money through local contacts. But he has not been able to come home because of business and the search for Jenni. He keeps shuttling between Guwahati and Shillong,” Anima said. She now lives with two daughters and a son. Two other daughters are married.

One of Jenni’s younger sisters, Lina — a student of class VI — remembered how “I used to play with my sister”. Jenni was a role model for her younger sisters as she “was very practical and studious”.

The family and the village, believe the girl had fallen into bad company. A village elder said taking advantage of her plight, some could be making a scapegoat of her to settle scores with political rivals.

“She is my child and she is in great trouble. Please save her,” Anima said.

When the news first arrived, Anima admits getting angry. “I have burnt them all...all her certificates, photographs, clothes, everything. I did not want to keep any memory of her. But I regret my actions now,” she added.

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