JAIPUR: History has been created in the first phase of Panchayat Polls in Rajasthan. A Pakistan origin women Neeta Kanwar who had migrated from Sindh in Pakistan 18 years back has been elected as Sarpanch of Natwara Panchayat in Tonk district.
Neeta Kanwar defeated her closes rival Sona Devi by 400 votes. Even as India is caught up in a heated debate over CAA and NRC, a Pakistani Hindu Migrant woman has contested Panchayat elections from Natwara Panchayat in Tonk district of Rajasthan. For the first phase of polling in 2,726-gram panchayats of the state, over 17,000 candidates are in the fray for the Sarpanch post but all eyes were focused on one candidate - Neeta Kanwar a Pakistani immigrant who came to India.
She studied for her BA at Ajmer’s Sophia College, then got married into a prominent Rajput family and finally got her Indian citizenship five months ago. Now through the inspiration of her father-in-law, Thakur Laxman Karan who has thrice been a Sarpanch, Neeta is keen to play a new role in India’s grassroots democracy. Delighted at her victory and emotional Neeta remarked, " I am so thankful to the people of the village who supported me all through this election and I am specially grateful to my father-in-law who has been a big big support for me in this crucial election."
Neeta who got married into a local Thikana family in 2011 has been campaigning hard for the past several weeks. She had studied till class XII in Sindh and then came to India with her sister and mother though her father and brother continue to live in Pakistan and are engaged in farming. Despite being married to Punya Pratap Karan, the son of Thakur Laxman Karan of Natwara, Neeta had to wage an eight-year-long battle to get Indian Citizenship which she finally secured in September last year.
Having become an Indian citizen, Neeta not only voted for the first time today but is also eager to win her maiden election. She is deeply impressed by the traditions of her Rajput in-laws and believes that the status of women in India is far better than in Pakistan. She says that if she does become a Sarpanch, she will work hard for greater women’s empowerment, better education and health facilities.
"Its 18 years since I came from Pakistan and over 8 years since I got married here. I have received so much love and support from everyone and that’s why I decided to contest elections when this seat was reserved for women from general category. " I will do my best for women’s empowerment and to improve educational and health services in our region to ensure effective Vikas in our rural areas, " Neeta says with confidence.
Neeta campaigned long and hard to become the Sarpanch and receives a lot of attention and support from local women who give her traditional blessings as she goes around seeking votes. Till last September, she was known locally as the ‘Pakistani Bahu’ but now has even greater acceptance as many want to see her as the first women Sarpanch of her area. Neeta says her father-in-law, Thakur Laxman Karan, is the mentor and source of her inspiration behind the decision to contest elections – and she hopes to live upto his trust by triumphing in her first electoral foray !!