At a time when women across Uttar Pradesh are surpassing men in casting votes, a village trapped by a glass ceiling of sorts is likely to challenge even the most enthusiastic voter awareness campaigns of the election commission.
Since independence, only three women of Sehrua, a Muslim dominated village of Lakhimpur Kheri district in central UP, have exercised their franchise. All the three, from one family, had bucked the trend in the 2007 polls.
Barring the exception, men of Sehrua say their women merely follow a tradition. But they cannot say when and how the tradition came into being.
Pressed, most insist, “Perhaps, we don’t want women to play a role in defeating men.”
Village elder Nasir Khan explains, “In earlier times, when the village head (gram pradhan) was chosen by raising hands, nobody wanted women to have any role in defeating men. Perhaps, the practice has continued.”
Sehrua gram pradhan (head) Aslam Khan says, “Efforts have been made to get the women to vote, but they want to remain glued to the tradition.”
It is difficult to get Sehrua’s women to explain their reluctance to vote. After much persuasion, Roshan Jahan and Gulnaz mumble, “tradition.”
A majority of the handful Hindu families in the village also follow the tradition. Sehrua shows little sign of following the example set by women of Atma Ram Bhargava’s family.
“My wife, my daughter and daughter-in-law voted in 2007 and will vote again,” says Bhargava, 62, who has studied up to Class 10. Sehrua votes on March 3.