Nathowal (Jagraon): In a unique example of communal harmony and tolerance, a Muslim woman was elected panch in a village where the community constitutes less than 10% of the population. She is in the fray for the post of panch from ward 5 of the village again and is getting support from residents across community lines.
“The fact that a Muslim woman is Panch in a village with around 95% Sikh population shows how much she is respected. It also highlights the level of communal harmony in the village. This is a manifestation of Punjabiyat, where people are not discriminated against on the basis of religion and a daughter is considered a daughter irrespective of the religion she belongs to. I feel proud to be from this state,” said Nazira.

She said she won the election for the post of panch in 2013 and is contesting for the post again. “During my last tenure, I, along with other panches and sarpanch conducted extensive development work in the village, including construction of roads, drains, water tank, gym for men and women,” she said.

Listing her priorities, Nazira said her focus would be on women’s education. “Our daughters have to go to distant areas for higher education, so we will try to get a college built in the village. We will also try to upgrade the middle school to the level of Class XII so that our daughters have a separate senior secondary school. This is very important for the progress of the village. Apart from this, we will construct a proper drainage system, community hall and better roads,” she said.

Nazira has studied up to Class X and has also taught at the local private school for seven years. “It was social work that prompted me to contest elections. I get great support from my husband Mushtaq Ali, who is a government employee, my son Muhammad Saleem Malik, who studies in Canada and my daughter Naseem Akhter,” she said.

Community members say they cherish brotherhood in the backdrop of polarization. “For us, every community is important as we believe all humans are equal. We are proud of the fact that we elect panches and Sarpanch on the basis of their good work for the humanity and the village,” said Manpreet Singh, whose wife is the outgoing sarpanch.

He added, “Nazira Ji was in our team and she worked tirelessly for the village during her last term”. He said the village has a population of around 3,800. Hindu community members also vouch for communal harmony in the village.

“There is no division of villagers on the basis of religion and we value good people irrespective of their religion. Though we live in another ward but we do respect Nazira Begum for a good human and leader,” said Aman Kumar, a village resident.


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