Haryana is a state with many dichotomies. On the one hand it has the most skewed sex ratios of all Indian states, and has aggressive 'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao' and 'Selfie With Daughter' campaigns to hammer home the importance of educating the girl child. On the other hand, this is a state that has produced the best women wrestlers in the country, a sport that until recently was mostly male-dominated.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, buoyed by an upward trend in the state's sex ratio for the first time in 10 years, promised to take the tally up within the next six months and set an example that the entire nation can emulate.
Wrestler Sakshi Malik from Haryana became the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal in wrestling after she picked up a bronze for India at the Rio Olympics. The film 'Dangal' put the agrarian state firmly on the world map after it told the real life underdog story of two wrestlers — Geeta and Babita Phogat — who fought patriarchy to win golds at the Commonwealth Games.
With so much going for the state's women, it comes as a disappointment that a photo caption in a Haryana government magazine has described the 'ghoonghat', or the veil that women cover their face with — usually an extension of their sari or a dupatta — as the "identity of the State". The veil signifies the regressive custom of purdah, in which women, for various reasons, are discouraged from interacting with men outside their families or come out in front of strangers without their faces covered. Societal proprietorship of women's bodies have remained even as they fight to break the patriarchy in their daily lives.
The recent issue of Krishi Samvad, a supplement of the Haryana Samvad magazine, carried the picture of a veiled woman, according to several media outlets, including wire service, PTI.
The woman's face can be seen covered with a 'ghoongat'.
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) June 28, 2017
"Ghoongat ki aan-baan, mahra Haryana ki pechchan (pride of the veil is the identity of my Haryana)", PTI reported. The cover of the magazine carried the photo of Khattar.
"This shows regressive mindset of the BJP government," said former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. India-born astronaut late Kalpana Chawla hailed from Haryana. Haryana's Manushi Chhillar was crowned Femina Miss India 2017.
"Women wearing veil was not the original culture of Haryana. This practice started only after foreign invasions and because of the fear of invaders. In south India, there was no 'purdah' system. Therefore, what I want to say is that BJP government wants to move back in time rather than thinking ahead and taking the state forward," Hooda said.
Anil Vij, a cabinet minister, told PTI: "What you are seeing in a government magazine should only be seen as what was Haryana's tradition. Nowhere are we saying that we want to force veil on women. We are in favour of women empowerment and we have done a lot in this regard".
"We are committed to women's education and have decided to open colleges for women after every 20 km. As regards the photo in the magazine, this has been the tradition in some parts of the state, but it is not binding. We are not forcing anyone to wear ghoongat. It is not like burqa and only those women who want to do ghoongat, it is as per their wish," Vij said. (With inputs from PTI)