Haryana—which has lived with the tag of being a “girl killer” with the worst sex ratio among Indian state is rewriting the script of the state’s infamy and HOW. Success in the movies, international sporting medals, scaling Mount Everest and now bagging the coveted Miss World title, girls from Haryana, despite so many odds have broken the proverbial glass ceiling to soar higher and higher, and are doing the state, as well as the country, proud. The achievements of these women are guiding hundreds of other women in the state to break long-established conservative barriers and stereotypes.
The odds that women in Haryana face are all too well known. Till last year, Haryana had the dubious distinction of being the worst among all states in terms of sex ratio—a dismal 850 girls for every 1,000 men. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state, led by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, now claims to have arrested the rot with the sex ratio improving to around 930. A notorious saying in Haryana is that “raising a daughter is like watering your neighbour’s plant”, meaning that after a girl is raised, she will marry and go on to be an asset to another family. Here are some ‘dhakad’ women from Haryana.
Manushi Chillar who was recently crowned Miss World. She is pursuing her MBBS degree from a government medical college in a rural part of Sonepat district and aims to be a cardiac surgeon. That’s not all. Manushi is a poet, painter and also a dancer, besides her keen interest in fashion and beauty. And she has joined a long list of women achievers from Haryana. It took 17 years for this title to come back to India. And when this beauty from Haryana accomplished this task of competing against women from all around the world, it was a proud moment for every Indian.
The Phogat sisters, or the six daughters of wrestler Mahavir Phogat, hail from Bhiwani. All six of them have been trained in wrestling, and three of them – Geeta, Babita and Vinesh – have won gold medals at the Commonwealth Games. Their story and struggles of wrestler sisters was well depicted in Aamir Khan’s superhit movie Dangal. Geeta and Babita, two girls from Balali village in Haryana, became world-class wrestlers. The dusty village of Balali in Haryana, was not too long ago up in arms when the Phogat sisters took to wrestling, saying it was against local tradition. Today, the village is mighty proud of the siblings who have brought about not just medals but also something of a social revolution in a state infamous for gender discrimination and honour killings. Geeta won gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Two years later, she became the first Indian female wrestler to qualify for the Olympics. Babita won a gold medal in the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Their younger sisters, Ritu and Sangita, are also wrestlers (Ritu won gold at the Commonwealth wrestling championships in 2016), but Dangal is about Geeta and Babita’s success.
A role model for countless Indian women, Kalpana was an ordinary girl from Karnal whose lofty dreams and indomitable courage took her to space. Born in Karnal, Kalpana Chawla was the first woman of Indian origin to go to space. She completed her graduation in Chandigarh, and then moved on to study aerospace engineering in Texas. She began working for NASA in 1988 and embarked on her first mission to space in 1997, making her only the second Indian to do so after Rakesh Sharma. In 2003, Kalpana was one of the seven crew members who lost their lives in the Columbia Space Shuttle tragedy. The space shuttle had disintegrated during its re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere, killing all on-board including Kalpana. She has been honoured with the Congressional Space Medal of Honour.
Sakshi Malik captured not just the country’s, but the entire world’s imagination when she won the bronze medal for wrestling at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Sakshi Malik hails from the Rohtak district of Haryana, and has also won a silver medal in the Commonwealth Games. Her win at the Olympics has helped inspire many girls from Haryana to take up the sport.
Known as the ‘golden girl’ of Indian Hockey, Mamta Kharab, an Arjuna awardee, is from Rohtak. She was formerly the captain of Indian Women’s Hockey Team and scored the winning goal in the 2002 Commonwealth Games which ultimately helped India win the gold. She now serves as a Deputy Superintendent in the Haryana Police. The character of Komal Chautala, from the acclaimed movie Chak De India, was based on her.
Born in the Rewari district of Haryana, Santosh Yadav is the first woman in the world to have climbed Mt Everest twice, and the first woman to achieve this feat by negotiating the Kangshung Face of the mountain. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 2000 and now serves as an officer in the Indo-Tibetan border police.
A Hisar girl, Saina Nehwal has won 21 international badminton titles including 10 Superseries titles. She also won the bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics. She is the first Indian female, and second Indian (after Prakash Padukone) to have attained the world no 1 ranking in the sport.