Saturday, April 2, 2011

Life of Godmother comes to an End

The lady gangster, Santokben Jadeja whose name evoked fear in the minds of people in Porbandar and Saurastra during 80s and 90s died on the fool’s day of Cardiac arrest. She challenged the male dominance both in underworld and politics and became a threat to the peace loving image of the Gujarat state.

Porbandar, the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi who preached the message of non violence became the land of gang wars and parallel governance. Sarman Munja a leader of local “Mer” Community, transformed himself from a mere mill worker at Maharana Mills to the don of illegal mining and transport business..

The early lessons of crime were learnt at the Maharana Mills where its owner Nanji Kalidas Mehta hired Vagher gang to smash the labour movement. Sarman and his maternal uncle gunned down Devu Vagher and entered to the furious world of crime. Thereafter, there was no looking back. Sarman acquired the title of Robinhood by its community members.

Till 1986 Santokben was playing the role of a home maker and a mother. Under the influence of late Pandurang Shastri of the Swadhyay movement he decided to farewell to arms and crime. But, the rival gangs did not accepted this. On a chilly night in December 1986 he was shot dead at Bakharala village by the Kala Keshav gang.

This incident changed the life of Santokben who took to the path, which Sarman had given up to avenge her husband's death. Selected 100 mer community members formed her gang. Soon her gang and its terror expanded as she extended control over illegal limestone, mining and transport businesses in the area.
A Scene from Film Godmother

Her life inspired bollywood to make the film “Godmother”, the title she carried rest of her life. In the film Shbana Azmi played her character and Milind Gunaji played Sarman. In real life her three of the four sons took command of the gangs and she took the responsibility of liaison with state politicians. In public she moved around with her sons and a few female bodyguards.

Her closeness to Chimanbhai Patel’s political outfit saw her rise as political power in the coastal region of Gujarat. She was an MLA from 1990 to 1995. , Santokben was the first and only woman from Porbadar district to be elected to the state assembly in 1989. With the demise of Chimanbhai Patel her political career saw the downward slope. In December 2002 she filed her nomination papers for the Kutiyana assembly seat but later withdrew in favour of the Congress candidate.

Rest of her life was full of controversies. More than 500 serious criminal cases were filed against her gang members. Nine of these cases, including those of murder, were against Godmother herself. She also faced a case under TADA. Her name surfaced in the murder of Keshu Odedara, a BJP councillor of Porbandar municipality in 2005.

Some of her family members were convicted in the case and were sent to jail. Godmother Santokben Jadeja before two years in 2009 was worried that her son might be killed by police in fake encounter. She had asked for help from Human Rights Commission, Chief Minister Narendra Modi and chief justice of Gujarat High Court. This year in February the additional sessions court had acquitted Jadeja family members in this case giving benefit of doubt.
Her son Kandhal Jadeja was arrested in connection with his wife Rekha Jadeja's murder. According to police records, the incident took place during early morning hours on May 20 in 2005, when unidentified assailants pumped at least ten bullets into Rekha's body and fled immediately after committing the crime. The police investigation was around the theory of family dispute over the succession of Godmother on its business.

All these controversies have come to an end and in minds of people Santokben Jadeja will remain as the character of Rambhi played by Shabana Azmi on Silver screen in Godmother.

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