B. Sumithra Devi was Jubilee Hills’ first-ever MLA, freedom fighter, Dalit leader, art promoter and anything but rich; she died penniless in 1980

Jubilee Hills is synonymous with palatial houses, expensive cars, influential residents and sky-high land rates. However, what many do not know is that the first-ever MLA from the upmarket locality died penniless in a one-room house.

And till today, her relatives continue to live in her 100 sq. yard, 90-year-old house in a small by lane in Vittalwadi – a stark contrast to the lifestyle of today’s legislators and their families.

Five-time MLA

Born in 1918, freedom fighter, Dalit leader and art promoter B. Sumithra Devi was a five-time undefeated MLA for the constituencies of Jubilee Hills (1957), Hyderabad-East (1962), Medchal (1967, 1972) and Ibrahimpatnam (1978). She passed away in 1980.

“It is impossible to even think we can have leaders like her now. We are now ruled by anti-social elements and it is a fact,” said 78-year-old A. Vijay Chandra, retired scientific officer and son-in-law of the late Sumitra Devi. He presently resides in the late legislator’s house. Mr. Chandra’s wife and Sumitra Devi’s daughter Rukimi had expired in 1983.

Opening an old trunk, he is more than happy to share old photographs of the veteran freedom fighter with Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu and musicians Shanka r-Jaikishan.

Epitome of probity

“She had immense clout but never tried to make money or resorted to undue favours. I am a good example, I did not have job for about seven years after marriage, but she did not use her influence to get me a job. She discouraged when relatives tried seeking her help to get kerosene dealerships, a house or a plot from government schemes.” Mr. Vijay said. She travelled in rickshaws, he said.

“When she passed away, we had to mortgage gold to perform her final rites. We did not get any help from Congress or the government,” said A. Jogesh Chandra, Mr. Vijay’s elder brother.

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