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In-charge of the Bhumata Brigade

Published : Sep 21, 2016, 11:49 pm IST
Updated : Sep 21, 2016, 11:49 pm IST

Trupti Desai, activist and founder of the Bhumata Brigade might miss a lot of family time, but she is happy to serve for a greater good.

A still from the short film, Bhumata Brigade a.k.a. The Angry Goddesses, in which Trupti featured	( Youtube.com)
 A still from the short film, Bhumata Brigade a.k.a. The Angry Goddesses, in which Trupti featured ( Youtube.com)

Trupti Desai, activist and founder of the Bhumata Brigade might miss a lot of family time, but she is happy to serve for a greater good.

On a regular day, the alarm clock rings at 5.30 in the morning at a certain Gurukrupa apartments in Dhankewadi, Pune, and Trupti Desai is out of her bed without wasting any time. Soon, she is on the streets – for her mandatory morning walk. She comes back in half an hour and starts preparing food for the day; usually the staples – wheat breads, rice, lentils and a vegetable curry – for her family of three. On the weekdays, she drops her 5-year-old son, Yogiraj, to school and then starts her work – to make the world a better place.

With her distinctive attire – cropped hair, Nehru jacket over colourful khaki kurtas – Trupti Desai burst onto the scene when she grabbed the nation’s attention while agitating to give women the right to enter the sanctum sanctorum of places of worship across Maharashtra. She became the face of the movement when she led the Bhumata Brigade to Shani Shingnapur and the Mahalakshmi temple in Kolhapur, amidst much protest. In the last week of August, her agitation reached a high point, when the Bombay High court said that the ban on women entering the sanctum of Haji Ali was contrary to the fundamental rights of a person, as provided in the Constitution.

She says that her journey was a predestined one. “I was born in a place where every other day there would be curfews and even as a child I could sense that people were in constant fear,” says Trupti. The 32-year-old activist was born in Nipani-Taluka on the border of Karnataka and Maharashtra, an area that saw the repercussions of the Belgaum border dispute. According to reports, in 1986, violence on the issue had lead to large-scale arson and nine deaths in Belgaum. Trupti must have been about two-years-old then.

At the age of eight, she moved along with her family to Pune. While her father was an ardent follower of Gagangiriji Maharaj, a spritual guru from of Kolhapur, she says it’s her mother who instilled courage in her. “Unfortunately, she couldn’t live to see the success that I have earned today,” she says. Her mother passed away in July last year; in November that same year, she along with 1,000 other protestors, she entered the inner core of Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar.

As a mother herself, Trupti is aware that she hasn’t been able to spend enough time with her only son, but she seeks blessings from God, on whom she has immense faith. “I try to give as much time as I can to my son, but things get difficult. And like any mother would, I feel bad about it. But, I believe I am working hard so that other mothers have less to worry about for their children, and this wouldn’t get unnoticed by the Supreme. My social work is my offering to God, and I am sure my son and my family will earn the blessings,” she says with conviction.

Although she has actively been involved in social change from an early age, it was in 2003 that she chose to concentrate on social work. She worked with Krantiveer Jhopdi Vikas Sangh, where she worked towards solving the slum-dwellers’ quotidian problems. In 2007, she came in to the limelight when she led a protest against Ajit Cooperative Bank that NCP heavyweight Ajit Pawar headed, for allegedly perpetrating a fraud of `50 crore. “Ajit Cooperative Bank was a den of people with political nexus and only people with political connections would get loans,” Trupti alleges. “Thirty-five thousand people who deposited their money in this bank were cheated; I formed Ajit Bank Sangharsh Samiti and after a rigorous battle of four years, I managed to get back the money of 29,000 depositors.”

In 2010, she formed the Bhumata Brigade with 40 people, and the organisation now has more than 5,000 registered members. “We work on various social issues – corruption, farmer suicides, women rights, environmental issues,” she explains. “And we help everyone who is in distress and needs our help, be it a woman or a man.”

As one would expect, Trupti has also earned a considerable horde of detractors. “Threats — of which I have aplenty — come almost as a perk to the job that I do, but that wont stop me from doing what I am doing. I believe that as long as I am honestly fighting for the truth, I need not be afraid of death. Fear can never take us anywhere,” she concludes.