She holds Master’s degrees in Sanskrit and English and hopes to complete her PhD soon on the work of Pultizer winner and Booker finalist Jhumpa Lahiri. And yet, whenever Asha Khedar visits her husband’s village in Haryana’s Hisar, she sticks to an age-old practice — she covers her face with a purdah.
On Tuesday, however, Asha was in for a surprise when she visited Khedar village after being named as a BJP candidate for the Haryana Assembly polls this month. Remove the purdah, go to voters with confidence, she was told.
A Dalit married to a Jat businessman from Khedar village, Asha (36) is the BJP candidate from Uklana, a reserved
constituency in Hisar. “In the last 13 years since my marriage, I have never gone to my sasural (home of her in-laws) without a purdah as I was a bahu (daughter-in-law)… the villagers mind these things,” she says.
“So, after the announcement of the ticket, I went to my sasural where more than 2,000 people had gathered. But to my surprise, everyone insisted that I remove the purdah. They asked me to go to voters with full confidence, and called me their daughter. They said such initiatives should begin from the home (village) itself. Now, I will be touring all the villages here to seek votes without a purdah,” she says.
Says Zila Parishad member Rajbir Khedar, who was among the gathering: “It doesn’t look nice that a politician covers her face with purdah. If she is elected to the Assembly, she may become a minister, too. Then it would be odd if she attends big functions in a purdah.”
Says former village sarpanch, Shamsher Singh: “Being the bahu of the village, she was in purdah. But how could she have met the voters in a purdah? We want her to succeed and asked her to focus on the elections by removing the purdah.”
Asha says she completed her post-graduation in Sanskrit from Panjab University and in English from Kurukshetra University. “I have also completed B.Ed and M.Phil in English from Kurukshetra University. I am about to complete my PhD on ‘Identities in Jhumpa Lahiri’s novels’ from BMU in Rohtak. Only the viva process is left,” she says.
Asha grew up in Chandigarh, where her father worked for Haryana Roadways. She is now based in Uklana town, about 200 km from Chandigarh and 20 km from Khedar village, with her husband Vinay and 11-year-old daughter.
“Vinay runs a petrol pump in Barwala town nearby. The other members of my husband’s family live in the
village. I go there almost daily but always in purdah,” she says.
Asha joined the BJP in 2007 and is now a general secretary in its Hisar unit. Party workers say she is known for her compering skills and is usually in charge on stage when Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar holds
public meetings in the district.
“Development of this area will be on top of my agenda in the election (on October 21). A college has already come up in Uklana, fulfilling a 50-year-old demand of residents. An Industrial Training Institute (ITI) will soon be set up,” she says.