Stripped tribal woman wants to fight Assam polls

By Syed Zarir Hussain, IANS,

Tezpur (Assam) : A naked young woman running for her life down the streets of Guwahati – that shameful sight of Nov 24, 2007 is still seared into the minds of many people in this state. Now that woman has decided to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Assam’s Tezpur seat.

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Laxmi Orang was among thousands of people who had converged at Guwahati that November day to take part in a rally demanding Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to workers in Assam’s tea gardens. The agitation turned violent with the protesters clashing with locals. In the melee, the young woman was stripped.

One tribal protester was killed and scores wounded in the clash. Laxmi was running for her life when a local youth took off his T-shirt, wrapped it around the woman, and led her to safety.

Photographs of Laxmi running naked were splashed across the newspapers the next morning and the whole of Assam was numbed by the act.

Today Laxmi has overcome the trauma and has plunged into politics – she has filed her papers to be a candidate for the April 23 parliamentary elections from Tezpur. She is the nominee of the Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF), a party led by perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal.

“Everybody knows about my plight…my case is a true reflection of the injustice and apathy towards the marginalised sections of society,” Laxmi told IANS even as she hopped out of a car to address a small roadside meeting.

“I want to represent and do something positive for the people of Assam, especially for women from marginalised communities who are still looked down upon,” she said with a glint in her eyes.

She may have a problem, though. Going by the voters’ list, she is 18, and you have to be 25 to contest. Her nomination paper says the school dropout is 25, but the AUDF is taking no chances – Laxmi’s father Deba Orang also filed his nomination as a substitute AUDF candidate in case Laxmi’s papers are rejected.

“Winning or losing is part of the game…but I want to fight for justice and according ST status to my community, besides all other communities who are facing neglect,” Laxmi said.

Even if Laxmi’s candidature is accepted, her electoral debut is not going to be easy. She will be pitted against Congress party veteran Mani Kumar Subba who is fighting to win the seat for the fourth straight term.

“The response I am getting is overwhelming,” Laxmi said as she left for another election meeting.