|Lakshmi Orang. Picture by Eastern Projections |
Guwahati, Nov. 19: It is a wound even time struggles to heal. But then there is no visible injury. It is deep down in her soul. No wonder, Lakshmi Orang is not ready to forgive — or forget — the people who stripped her bare, body and soul.
A year after the Adivasi woman from Sonitpur was disrobed on the streets of Beltola here, she said today that there was no question of forgiveness.
"I will never forgive them for what they did to me...How can I forgive them? They have taken away everything I had.
"I talk...I mingle...I try to be normal but deep within, there is always the pang that threatens to tear me apart," she said, almost choking on tears.
Lakshmi said that she was now drawing strength from the Mahabharat in her new avatar as a political personality. "Draupadi, too, was stripped in public. She fought on and lived to see the end of those who committed the crime," she added.
The Adivasi woman recently joined the Assam United Democratic Front and has sought a party ticket to contest the Tezpur parliamentary seat in the next elections. She said the perpetrators of the crime ought to be hanged.
Lakshmi was stripped, chased and assaulted by a group of people after the procession in which she had taken part on November 24 culminated in a clash between those taking part in it and residents of the area. Trouble began when a section of the rallyists allegedly went on the rampage, damaging shops and cars, thus inviting retaliation from the residents.
"I am totally disgusted with the government. Till date, it has not been able to bring the culprits to book. Even the Scheduled Tribes demand of our community, for which we had gone to Beltola, still remains unfulfilled," she said.
In September, the government had offered her a job, which she had turned down. "I had returned the letter without even opening it. I was not hankering for a government job or money. If the government had really felt for me, it would have by now punished the culprits," the Adivasi woman said.
Lakshmi said it was the sense of injustice that drove her to politics. "I have decided to be in politics because it will empower me to provide justice to the unprivileged," she said.
"I am really happy to be able to work for my people. I am overwhelmed by the support and encouragement I am getting from society," she said.
This encouragement and support has kept her going. "I start my work at 7 in the morning. I go out, meet people — mostly women — and share their problems," she said.
By the time I return home, twilight sets in. "That is the time I feel very lonely and get engulfed by the darkness," she sighed.