After boxer Vijender Singh and cricketer Virender Sehwag, another sportsperson from Haryana has requested the Jat community to stop their ongoing agitation and maintain law and order in the state. Not as well know, it’s Anuradha Beniwal, national chess champion, who on Tuesday uploaded a video on the Net (click here to watch) , seeking to strike some reason among her fellow Haryanvis.
But who is this young woman? Here are ten things you must know about her, followed by an interview:
1 Born in Meham near Rohtak. She was brought up in an unconventional way, home-schooled and by the age of seven, was ranked number two chess player in the country.
2 She is also a writer, known for her bold views on touchy subjects.
3 Anuradha, 29, launched her debut book titled ‘Azadi mera brand’ at the World Book Fair in Delhi on January 10.
4 She has penned no touristy account of India and 10 European countries, but in fact the saga of a Haryanvi Jat girl from a middle-class family who achieved early success and setbacks but continued her spirited search for independence and living life at her own terms.
5 It began when her father Krishan Singh Beniwal, a lecturer of political science, disillusioned by restrictive school education, decided that his firstborn daughter must learn a sport for he and his brothers had all gone through wrestling and boxing. He also decided to home-school her. “I proved to be no good at sports, being a weak and sickly child. When I was six, a friend introduced my father to chess which he in turn taught my mother Saroj Bala and my training started.”
6 When she was seven, she went to an under-10 tournament at Patiala but on reaching learned that there was only an under-18 tournament for girls. She participated in it and was ranked third.
7 She took a degree in English Honours from Miranda College, Delhi University. Not satisfied yet, she took a degree in law and also did her masters in English literature. “I took up a job in Pune and it was here that I met a girl called Ramonna who would launch off to remote places on low budget. I had thought travelling was only for rich people. But inspired by her, I did backpacker trips of Rajasthan and the South. Then after saving money, I decided to encounter Europe camping with my Pune-based friend Akhil Bansal in London. I travelled through France, Belgium, Netherland, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria and Switzerland,” she says.
8 She was commissioned to the book by Rajkamal Prakashan with an editor seeing her blogs in English on web portals and posts in Hindi at Facebook. “I took the decision to write more in Hindi because I enjoyed it and reached out to more people through it,” she says.
9 However, her childhood game was to come back to her when she married Akhil and started living in London. Today, she is a well-regarded professional chess coach in prestigious schools, teaching children in the age group of 4 to 10.
10 A wish for Haryanvi girls: Anuradha says, “I feel free, secure and relaxed walking on strange roads at odd hours, sleeping in camps or dancing and singing. I wish to see this happening in the streets of Rohtak too. I was born and brought up there but I never felt the sense of freedom there. I wish to scatter seeds of freedom for Haryanvi girls.”
‘I am all for protesting for rights, but no one has the right to start riots’
“We have set Haryana aflame and we have to extinguish that fire... My older uncle’s sons went with gandasa (axes) in hand crying ‘Jat Ekta’ to break open shutters of shops. But there is my other uncle’s son Meetu too, who goes every day to Meham to help his Punjabi friends. Youths like Meetu will rebuild Haryana...”
-- Translated from a Haryanvi post on the Facebook page of Anuradha Beniwal (29), child chess prodigy and writer
With a viral video in particular, this Haryanvi Jat girl has become the voice of reason amid the mindlessness. Excerpts from an exclusive online interview:
What do you feel about the violent Jat agitation for reservation?
I am all for protesting for “rights”, but no one has the right to start riots... Personally, I don’t feel the need for reservation on basis of my Jat caste. It’s always considered itself a superior caste… We are full of pride! And that’s why the agitation is so violent.
What is your view of caste-based reservation?
The upper castes have wronged lower castes for ages and reservation has helped towards a level-playing field. But now it has become a vote-bank tactic.
Is the agitation result of frustration of small farmers?
It is a result of many things — unemployment, illiteracy and no proper guidance. There is lack of good schools, colleges, stadiums. The younger generation fails to understand why one boy gets admission with 40% and another is left out with 80%. They don’t know history to know why. Hatred for ‘other’ castes lingers.
Will you talk of your personal experience?
My family is from Kheri Meham; we don’t have enough land. In a family of 25, only my dad had a government job. I understand if people have angst; but they never had a culture of studying. Those who dropped out in Class 5 want to burn [things] to get quota! … I will start a school in Rohtak in 2018.
Do you feel Indian society will ever be free of caste?
It has to be! We are humans and evolution is the only option.