The sudden demise of Smt. Sumitra Devi, known to all of us as Sumitra Di has awakened the Dalit community of Bihar. Didi has spent more than 40 years with the community. Through her activities, Didi has immensely contributed for the empowerment of Women in general and Dalit women in particular. At very young age she shouldered the Dalit cause as a whole time worker, by sacrificing her personal live completely. She transformed the Prayas (Prayas Gramin Vikas Samiti’s) office as her own home and lived with the community.
Her contributions to the Dalith community are countless. To quote a few : The village developed for the rehabilitated bonded labour near Patna is a live example. She is the ‘God Mother’ for every family in the village. In my experience with Bihar Dalit community, this is the only village where every Dalit child is in the school, every household is part of the self-help groups without a defaulter and a total liquor free community.
Didi improved her skill in tailoring along with her long companion Karuna Di ( Smt. Karuna Prakash) and trained several Dalit girls and empowered them to earn considerably to support their families. There are few hundreds of Dalit women who are in to tailoring. Both the Didis’ Tailoring skills have supported the activities of Prayas for several years and is known to all.
As a ‘Mahila Kosh’ in-charge of Prayas, she is not interested in linking the self-help groups to Banks. In her opinion, bank linkages would bring in the element of business into the community that would defeat the self-help purpose of the groups. Hundreds of self-help groups established by her are still adhere to this value of Didi.
Didi has held several positions in the governance of Praysas. Whatever position Didi held, she is all in one and used to feed all of us at the office. She is the fond mother of every one who stayed at the office, including my own parents and family members enjoyed the hospitality and affection during our visit to Bihar in 2012.
Didi was one of the founder members of DAM, ( Dalit Adhikar Manch) Bihar the State chapter of NDF (National Dalit Forum).
Didi’s sudden demise pushed all of us in to deep sorrow…especially Kapil ji (Kapileshwar Ram, President of Prayas) She is the eldest of his family…….
Didi….. we will March forward in the path laid by you…….
May her soul rest in peace…
Ravi Kumar – NDF