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The garland that Pt. Nehru garlanded Budhni at the inauguration of Panchet Dam became a lifelong pain for him. In fact, among the Santhal tribals, a man garlanding a woman or girl was considered marriage. At that time, marrying outside the community was ostracized from the society. The tribal community considered the garlanding of the then PM Nehru as a marriage. Budhani Manjhiyain was ostracized from the society for ‘marrying’ a non-tribal outside the community. He was banned from entering his village. This story of Budhni Manjhiyain came to light on November 17, when Budhni died in a hut in Panchet. She lived here in a hut with her daughter Ratna.
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Hundreds of people, including local politicians and officials, came to bid farewell to Budhani Manjhiyain. Many people present there described Budhani Manjhiyain as the ‘first tribal wife’ of the country’s first Prime Minister. The people present there demanded a memorial in Budhni’s honor next to the existing statue of Nehru in the local park. He also demanded pension for Budhni’s daughter Ratna (60).
Panchet Panchayat head Bhairav Mandal and others have written to the DVC management about a memorial and a house for Ratna in the local DVC colony. Let us tell you, DVC Damodar Valley Corporation is a public undertaking, under which the dam was built. Ratna’s son Bapi (35) is an accountant in DVC.
Sumesh Kumar, Deputy Chief Engineer of DVC in Panchet, said no decision has been taken yet on the memorial or other demands. Kumar said that ‘these decisions can be taken only after consultation with top officials.’
It is said that the ups and downs in Budhni’s life started in 1952. Their ancestral land was submerged during the construction of the dam. He had no source of income other than land. However, Budhani did not give up even after this. He worked as a laborer during the construction of the dam. Budhni was one of the first contract labourers.
Then, the troubles started again with Nehru being garlanded at the inauguration on 5 December 1959. The DVC management had chosen Budhni along with Santhali man Ravana Manjhi to welcome Nehru. Local belief is that Budhni had pressed the button to start the dam.
In 1962, Budhni was laid off along with many other DVC contract workers. She moved to Saltora in Purulia in the neighboring state of Bengal and started working as a daily wage labourer. There, Budhni met Sudhir Dutta, a contract worker at a colliery, who sheltered her and later married her.
In 1985, when Rajiv Gandhi went to Asansol in Bengal as Prime Minister, a local Congress leader introduced him to Budhni and he narrated his ordeal. After this Budhni got a job in DVC, from where she retired in 2005.
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