Country-made arms, and the skills to use them: Meet Pushpa Goswami, commander, belan fauj

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-10-17-37-amBack in 2008 when Barack Obama was still President and Modi was inching his way towards Racecourse Road, there was a woman just touching 40 on the brink of a revolution in the heartland of our country.

Unassuming in demeanour, the petite Pushpa Goswami is an unusual fit for a gang leader, or at least how we imagine a gang leader. A homemaker who lives in Banda, and more recently a ward member, supported in the recent municipal elections by the BJP, hers is a story of what happens when you’re pushed too much and too far – when the break is inevitable.

It is also the story of a rolling pin.

“A few women from the locality came to me to rant about the lack of electricity in their homes. I decided to take their complaints to the electricity department to help. I thought if I can put it forth for them and be of some help, then why not?”

But when Pushpa reached the department with the women, they were in for a rude shock. The officials at the department were not only dismissive of them and their problems, but they also mocked and ridiculed them, waving them away as if it was all a hue and cry about nothing.

Anger, as we know, is a powerful emotion – it can cause harm but it can also destroy harm when unleashed with might, on the right side of righteousness.

Pushpa did not really think twice before grabbing the first thing that was at an arm’s reach and throwing it at the officials – a rolling pin. “There was the local mithai guy frying his samosas right there, and I just picked up that belan and flung it at him, I was so enraged!”

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-10-16-01-amThus was born the Belan Fauj (the Rolling Pin Army) and its leader, Pushpa Goswami.

They are now a welcome change on Banda’s cityscape: a group of middle aged women, saris tucked neatly into their waists and rolling pins held high, are a common sight at Banda’s administrative offices. Something’s gotta give, you have to think.

The onset of one of the biggest elections in the country has now got Pushpa and her fauj in the spotlight. The BJP, looking to make inroads into the SP-ruled state, has been showing them special attention. The party is looking to campaign with the Belan Fauj and the ever-growing number of women the gang has mobilized, but Pushpa is slightly hesitant and not jumping in all gung-ho just yet. She’s put in a lot of hard work, sweat and stirring emotions into this and is a bit wary of it all “getting politicized”. The Belan Fauj’s few thousand members almost all have a story of violence or injustice that they have struggled with and have survived. Much of Pushpa’s time, riding around from early morning on her scooter, is to support these cases, the large proportion of which would fall by the wayside if not for dogged champions like her.

Although when we met her recently, it seemed quite certain that Pushpa was not entirely opposed to dipping her toes in the water. She’s all geared up for the Chunavi Dangal, if she’s promised a seat. In her own quiet way, Pushpa was deeply impressed by the recent ‘surgical strike’, and believes that Modi is changing the face of the nation.

It remains to be seen now if BJP’s “parivartan” will take shape with the help of these women, armed with attitude. And of course, rolling pins.

Watch Pushpa Goswami and other gang leaders of Bundelkhand here