Less than a month away from the panchayat elections in the state, guess what Haryana is witnessing a mad scramble for? Not last minute campaigning or poaching of candidates, but Haryana villages are in a great rush to find educated brides. Unfortunately, it is not a sudden appreciation of literacy that has sent them bride hunting, it's a new law in the state which has. On 11 December, the Supreme Court upheld the Haryana government's law that individuals wanting to contest panchayat polls should have minimum education.
The Indian Express had reported: "The bench dismissed a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015. The Act requires that general candidates must have passed Class X examination while women and Dalit candidates need to have cleared Class VIII. Dalit women candidates must clear Class V."
Eager to find a way around the new law, the political leaders of Haryana - who have traditionally dominated panchayat elections - have now resorted to finding women who match the requirements of the new law so that they can be married off to their kin. That way, the power to make political decisions rests with the elders in the family who have tradtionally fought and won these elections. The educated brides, therefore, will serve as a facade for the real decision makers at work.
An article on The Tribune narrates the story of one Fateh Mohammad, a resident of Hussainpur, in Haryana's Mewat district. Mohammed, had lost the last panchayat elections by just one vote. He has had no formal education. The seat has been reserved for women this year and Mohammad figured that he could let his wife contest the polls instead him. However, the new law jeopardised his position.
So Mohammad married his 21-year-old B Tech student son off to a graduate from Rajasthan in haste. Only because he didn't want his chance at power to pass him by. Faruna told Tribune, "I don’t know much about elections and will go by whatever my elders say....My relatives who once used to rebuke my parents for making me study are now congratulating them."
It is clear, therefore, that Faruna will merely be a puppet in the hands of Mohammad and his family and from her comment, it seems she is more than willing to be so.
The article also mentions the case of another man, who got his son married a second time to an educated girl so that the family had a chance at the polls.
Deccan Herald notes that these election weddings are a rage now in Mewat, a Muslim dominated district of Haryana. "Haryana has witnessed a spate of “poll-driven marriages” solemnised with educated brides, at least 50 such marriages in Muslim dominated Mewat alone in the last few months. That’s because it became increasingly hard to find an eligible woman, even for women reserved seats, who had the requisite educational qualification to contest the elections," the report says.
The new law has also revealed how several districts of Haryana have neglected women's education. Strangely enough, in constituencies like Mewat, the legislation has not convinced the villagers about the many benefits of education. Instead of resenting the lack of education, the villagers are upset about the new law which necessitates minimum education.
Worse is, the practice they have embraced to dodge the new law, does against the reason the law was formulated and then upheld by the SC. While upholding the law, SC had commented, "It is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad." However, the prospective educated panchayat polls candidates in Mewat seem be giving up what the apex court thinks education extends to people - the power to make informed decisions by yourself.
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