Women achievers slam Haryana govt for calling ‘ghoonghat’ state’s identity | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Women achievers slam Haryana govt for calling ‘ghoonghat’ state’s identity

In Haryana, which is among the states having the worst sex ratio in the country and where khap panchayats often flout the laws of the land, some women empowerment groups have courageously taken it upon themselves to stop the regressive practice of women wearing ‘ghoongat’ or veil to hide their faces from the menfolk.

india Updated: Jul 01, 2017 09:43 IST
Aneesha Bedi
The age of ‘ghongat’ is over, say Haryana’s stars.
The age of ‘ghongat’ is over, say Haryana’s stars.(HT File Photo)

‘Ghoongat’ or the full-face veil arouses strong feelings around the world. It has never been limited to one religion, place or time.

In Haryana, which is among the states having the worst sex ratio in the country and where khap panchayats often flout the laws of the land, some women empowerment groups have courageously taken it upon themselves to stop the regressive practice of women wearing ‘ghoongat’ or veil to hide their faces from the menfolk.

In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had travelled to Haryana’s Panipat district to launch the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign to educate the girl child in a state. However, a back-page advertisement in a recent edition of the state government magazine Krishi Samvad, which had a smiling face of Khattar on the cover page, showed a rural woman in a veil. An accompanying photo caption said women behind veil were Haryana’s identity, its pride, inviting a lot of flak.

Besides the political response the photo description garnered, a number of woman achievers from the state known for having broken this very stereotype reacted sharply to the backward mindset.

Women’s identity not in veil: Geeta Phogat

Geeta Phogat, the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning wrestler, whose feat inspired the Bollywood blockbuster ‘Dangal’, said, “I don’t know why such a statement was made by the government, but a woman’s identity is certainly not in the ‘ghoonghat’. We have struggled so hard to change this mindset among the people of Haryana, and such carelessly put statement sends out a false message.”

Geeta’s sister Babita, a World Championship medallist wrestler, told HT, “A woman’s identity is borne of what she does in her life. In fact, women are no less than men in anything in the world – that’s what we should be promoting, and not that women should be under the veil.”

Age of ‘ghoonghat’ is long over: Mamta Sodha

Kaithal’s Mamta Sodha, known for scaling the Mount Everest in 2010, believes the age of “ghoonghat” is long over. “It is one thing to get upset after reading about such things and another to say it’s established symbolism for a state’s regressive outlook. We have got way more freedom today and this is reflected in the number of women who’ve made a name at the national level.”

She added, “The Kalpana Chawalas weren’t born overnight after all.”

Back to square one: says Kiran Choudhary

Congress MLA Kiran Choudhary said, “It is easy to launch a campaign like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao and indulge in sloganeering, but publishing such descriptions in a government magazine brings back things to square one.” She added, “There is no field Haryanvi women haven’t made a name in — be it sports, beauty, cinema, pilots.” After her husband Surender Singh’s demise 12 years ago, the elderly in the family did away with age-old custom of putting the ‘pagdi’ on a male relative’s head, passing it on to her daughter Shruti Chaudhary.

Kamlesh Panchal, former chairperson of the Haryana State Commission for Women, said, “Something like this pours water on the tremendous efforts made by those girls who have rebelled to break such traditional norms.”

Former national chess champion Anuradha Beniwal, who currently teaches chess in London, is frequently asked about the Haryanvi society. The author of ‘Azaadi Mera Brand’, Beniwal is irked when asked to comment on this issue over a video chat with HT.

“It makes me angry that why must women alone have to carry the burden of culture. The veil is not the state’s culture. If that was the case why must not everyone else also abide by it. Why only women?”

Reiterating her own parents’ story of how her father, a professor, ensured her mother, a student then, got rid of the veil, she said it is not about “choice”. “If that was the case then why has a male counterpart never got up and said he wanted to do the same,” she added.

For INLD MLA Naina Chautala, there has been a marked change. Accepting how ‘ghoongat’ was practiced once in the Chautala village too, she feels women are stepping out of their cocoons today.