At Aalha-Udal Chowk in Mahoba, hoardings welcome politicians and advertise jaagran shivirs (spiritual awakening camps). There is a sit-in too at the chowk—named after two warrior brothers of the region’s folklore—for a separate Bundelkhand state, which has clocked 536 days. About 10 people are sitting under the banner of Bundeli Samaj; Jai Bundelkhand is their preferred salutation. The Bundelkhand region comprises over a dozen districts, including Mahoba, in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
Among the demonstrators is 49-year-old Tara Patkar, the convener of Bundeli Samaj. Bearded, barefoot and wearing a rosary with a portrait of Osho, Patkar’s appearance is striking. A journalist for over 20 years in Lucknow, he quit his job in 2015, returned to his native place, Mahoba, and resolved to walk barefoot until the district gets a medical college. “In Lucknow, there are many people to fight for the cause, but there are a few here,” says Patkar. A separate state will bring the government’s attention to the region that, he feels, has been ignored so far. Big mining companies are plundering Bundelkhand for gravel and sand, he claims, and the region lacks healthcare facilities. The demand for a separate state has been there for almost 30 years, he adds.