In an election that broke turnout records in Uttar Pradesh and saw more women voting than men, Lakhimpur-Kheri's Sehrua village saw a minor miracle.
For the first time since Independence, women of this Muslim-dominated village came out to vote. On Saturday, around 60 of them were seen queuing up at the poll booth.
A week before the polls, HT had visited Sehrua to discover what kept the women away from polling booths. There appeared no valid reason. The Sehrua women merely said it was a tradition they were following.
Their reluctance appeared even more surprising given that women from adjoining villages — Ghunsi, Roshan Nagar, Angpur, Ambepurwa and Rehmatpur — had been voting regularly.
"If the village head issues an appeal, it could have an impact," village elder Nasir Khan had said.
On Saturday, the requisite appeal came, with the village head going from door-to-door and urging the women to vote. The ploy proved successful. "Not all the women voted. But a beginning has been made," said village pradhan Aslam Khan.
Khan's daughter-in-law Sarjahan, who also voted this time, said, "Women voted because of the increased pressure and awareness".
Women of just one family in the village had gone to vote in 2007 — mother and niece of Kuldeep Bhargav.
Kuldeep got married last year and this year, his wife Ankita voted as well.
"Literacy and awareness has a lot to do with going out to vote," said Ankita, who has done a BEd after an MA course. "Women are realising the power of their franchise."