"What Hema Malini has said is scary. Does she want to remove us from here? Where will we go?" 65-old-year Aarti Nath told PTI. She had left her Howrah home four years ago after her son started misbehaving following her husband's death. Vrindavan, where thousands of widows live and worship Lord Krishna, was her only refuge.
Along with 50 others, she left for Kolkata today from Vrindavan to celebrate Durga Puja. They have sought an appointment with the CM and Governor K N Tripathi to discuss the matter with them during their stay. "We will talk to her on this if the government can help us. Not all of us go and beg in temples. We have been given a bad name," another widow who stays in an ashram sponsored by NGO Sulabh said.
The former screen goddess and now a BJP MP Hema Malini had recently stoked controversy with her remarks that widows from West Bengal and Bihar should not crowd Vrindavan. She had said that responsibility of looking after widows should be of states from where they hail. West Bengal's Minister of Women and Child Welfare Shashi Panja told PTI that she would meet the widows during their Kolkata visit.
"First we need to understand what these widows want from us. After that we will decide what help can be given from the state government side," she said. NGO Sulabh is looking after 1,000 Vrindavan widows as part of a Supreme Court directive to remove the stigma attached to their lives.
Forced into a life of isolation, dejection and poverty, these widows were living under pathetic conditions without any proper food, medical and hygienic facilities. Sulabh has now started providing pension, food, health and other facilities to these women, besides giving them vocational training and employment.