25-year-old sarpanch in Haryana village who opposed ghoonghat | india | Hindustan Times
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25-year-old sarpanch in Haryana village who opposed ghoonghat

india Updated: Mar 07, 2014 22:40 IST
Vishal Joshi
Seema Devi

Seema-Devi-Sarpanch-of-Chausla-village-in-Kaithal-district-in-Haryana-along-with-other-village-ladies-discussing-a-point-at-her-residence-Gurpreet-Singh-HT-Photo

Seema Devi, a 25-year-old sarpanch, did not just drop the 'ghoonghat'.

She lifted the dark veil of gender bias and let in the light of reason into a sleepy village in Haryana's Kaithal district, some 150 km from capital Chandigarh.

Inspired by a deputy commissioner and backed by her husband, one fine morning in October 2012, Seema Devi stepped out of her room and walked up to her in-laws without the ghoonghat, till then a must-have for all married women in this highly conservative society.

She had found her place under the sun.

"I cannot express that moment. It was like a dream," she recalled.

Initially her mother-in-law did not approve of this "freedom". Many in the village frowned upon her. But she refused to back out.

"My husband stood by me and after listening to his viewpoints, my family relented. Others in the village too followed suit. Today, the elder members in the family and village bless me for taking such a bold social step," Seema added.

For nearly 100-odd women of the village, Seema is now a role-model - they too have stopped using the veil.

Seema said her dream was to see the village - and entire country - free of this suppressive tradition.

Today, Seema not only mingles with males of her in-laws' family, relatives and villager elders but also calls her husband Baldev Singh by his first name.

"Women are not supposed to speak a word with any male member, be it is from the in-laws or the village, and now I realise how these customs had suppressed me as a human being," she said.

Seema admitted that she was a typical Haryanvi bahu for whom any married woman who did not use the veil or speak to strangers was "immoral".

However, Seema - a mother of two girls - have the entire credit of her "freedom from social taboos" to the then Kaithal deputy commissioner Chander Shekhar, who asked her to shun the ghoonghat and work for the women of the village.

In a lighter vein, Seema said that she enjoyed it when villagers called her the Indira Gandhi of Chausala for being a good orator with leadership qualities.

Last year, Seema was among several activists who participated in a function in New Delhi attended by union minister Jaipal Reddy was the chief guest.

"Amidst a gathering of English-speaking people, I confidently read my speech in Hindi. It was really exciting when Reddy lauded my efforts," she added.