The 2014 Ahmadiyya Muslim Prize for the Advancement of Peace went to Sindhutai Sapkal. Also known as Mother of Orphans, Sindhutai is a social worker and social activist known particularly for her work for raising orphaned children. Sindhutai received the Ahmadiyya Peace Prize at the National Peace Symposium held in London, 2014.
According to The Muslim Times, Sindhutai was born on 14 November 1948 at Pimpri Meghe village in Wardha district of Maharashtra. Being an unwanted child, she was nicknamed ‘Chindhi’ (torn piece of cloth). Her father was keen on educating Sindhutai, much against the wishes of her mother. Abject poverty, family responsibilities and an early marriage forced Sindhutai to quit formal education after she passed the 4th grade.
At the age of 10, she got married to Shrihari Sapkal, a 30-year-old cowherd from Navargaon village. She bore 3 sons by the time she turned 20. She put up a successful agitation against a local strongman who was fleecing the villagers on collection of dried cow dung and selling it in collusion with forest department, without paying anything to the villagers. Her agitation brought the district collector to her village and on realising she was right, he passed an order which the strongman did not like.
Stung by the insult at the hands of a poor woman, the strongman convinced her husband to abandon Sindhutai when she was beyond 9 months of her pregnancy. She gave birth to a baby girl in a cow shelter outside their house that night, all by herself and walked few kilometres away to her mother’s place, who refused to shelter her. Sindhutai started begging on railway platforms for food. In the process, she came across many children who were abandoned by their parents. She adopted them as her own and started begging even more vigorously to feed them.
Sindhutai decided to become a mother to anyone and everyone who came across to her as an orphan. She later donated her biological child to the trust Shrimant Dagdu Sheth Halwai, Pune, only to eliminate the feeling of partiality between her daughter and the adopted ones.
Sindhutai has devoted her entire life to orphans. As a result, she is fondly called ‘Mai'(mother). Many of the children whom she adopted are well-educated lawyers and doctors, and some, including her biological daughter, are running their own independent orphanages. One of her children is doing a PhD on her life. She has been honoured with over 273 awards for her dedication and work. She used the award money to buy land to make a home for her children. A marathi film ‘Mee Sindhutai Sapkal’ released in 2010, is a biopic inspired by the true story of Sindhutai. The film was selected for world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival.
In 2014, YourStory celebrated unsung heroes. Sindhutai was one of them.