Haryana village crowns daughters with pagris

Haryana village crowns daughters with pagris

Haryana village crowns daughters with pagris

Breaking shackles of stereotype has never been easy, more when it's deeply etched in the ‘social’ fabric, rightly or otherwise. And if it's backed by many all-powerful social self-styled groups, the task may appear horrendous. In Jat  land, a campaign to challenge, if not to break, the stereotype is fast catching the momentum. It's about the equal rights of girls to carry forward the baton on family legacy in all ways, something that has long remained the sole prerogative of sons, especially in rural areas in Haryana.

But a very progressive village in Haryana is standing up to challenge this stereotype. Last week, it finally took shape. Scores of men got together with their daughters and granddaughters to do something that this part had not seen before. The elderly took off their traditional Pagris (turbans) in front of hundreds of people and crowned them ceremoniously over their daughters/granddaughters' heads.

In traditions, symbolism matters. This was one way to say girls too are the custodians of family legacy in all ways--financially, socially and even politically. “It's about girls' Swabhiman (self-respect) which is often only limited to mere words,” Sunil Jaglan, the man behind the campaign and former sarpanch of Bibipur panchayat in Haryana’s Jind, told DH. Jaglan was applauded, even by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in one of his Mann Ki Baat programmes last year, for his “Selfie with Daughter” initiative.

The pagri in Haryana, Sunil Jaglan said, is considered a symbol of family honour and lot of sentiments are attached to it. It's an article that has been with men folk in villages and conveys the command and last word that needs to be followed within homes. This gesture of handing over turbans to daughters and granddaughters by the elderly has initiated a new chapter in propagating rights of women. Things are changing even in many back of the beyond villages. The elderly say they were initially hesitant to embrace a change, especially something which affected a change in the mindset.

“We always felt a need to do something for our daughters, something relevant, something that provides them the due they rightly deserve. At times, there was remorse that we are unable to break the stereotype. But an initiative like this has triggered a change in all of us. We now have more reason to celebrate,”  Surinder Singh, who was present at the ceremony, said.

The moment was nostalgic. Some grandfathers with moist eyes hugged their granddaughters as they pledged to protect their rights. As many as 122 girls were handed over the pagris of their elderly. Before that, the girls spoke. Ritu of Bibipur said, “Talk of women empowerment is only limited to a few. In villages, such talks are limited to words. Girls are scared that if they talk about their right to inherit property or seek a place in the decision making even within the walls of the house, they were either hurriedly married off or told to shut up.” Ritu said parents don’t involve daughters in decision making at home, then it's a far cry to expect her in-laws to offer them such freedom.

Jaglan said at least a hundred such campaigns will be initiated under the umbrella theme of Lado Swabhiman Utsav (daughter self-respect celebration). Mahavir Singh Pogat--the acclaimed veteran wrestler and proud father of Commonwealth medalist Geeta and Babita Pogat, whose character on the big screen was played by actor Aamir Khan in recently released Bollywood blockbuster Dangal, had extended support to this campaign for daughters' rights when the idea was being conceptualised, Jaglan said.

Even Aamir Khan was kept in the loop, he maintained. But due to prior engagements ahead of the screening of the movie, the celebrities could not make it to the event, Jaglan said. Fathers and grandfathers from at least half a dozen villages in Jind participated in the event that witnessed an audience overwhelmed by women in excess of 600 that day. “Women's participation-- many of them who have lived a life enduring such archaic mindset--in such large numbers was testimony to the fact that the winds of change have started to blow,” Jaglan felt.

The celebration has taken a step forward. Postal stamps with Selfie with Daughter prominently on display have been rolled out. Jaglan with his daughters is already on a postal stamp and others may follow suit. “Often when rural segments are reserved for women, they are used as the face while all the work and decision making are left to  men. This farce has to end. Such initiatives to empower political, financial and social freedom to girls will effect a change in the mindset for good,” he said.

Bibipur, like many villages in Haryana, had lived with the blemish of an abysmally poor sex ratio. In 2012, against 58 birth of boys, Bibipur saw only 37 birth of girls. But efforts by the village turned around everything. The next year, it was 51 girls against 45 boys. In 2015, as many as 52 girls were born against 44 boys. “We have attempted to help villagers understand that girls are no less than boys, just that they need to be given equal opportunities to excel,” Jaglan said.

Bibipur has the distinction of conducting the first Mahila Khap Panchayat in 2012. The village lives equally on symbolism. It has a daughters' marg (road) and institutions exclusively dedicated for women. The village is also a topic for research students. “Several students from top universities of the country have taken this village as a research topic,” Jaglan said. The village has figured prominently in nearly 50 foreign documentaries as well.