In the recent by-elections of the Garhazan village in Bharatpur, a rather unlikely - but refreshing, futuristic and much needed nonetheless - suitor emerged not only as a poll candidate, but also the winner - 24-year-old female medical student Shahnaaz Khan, who is the youngest and most educated Sarpanch (and woman, when it comes to the latter) the village has ever seen.
“People in Mewat area don’t send their daughters to schools. I will present before them my own example to show what education can do for a woman,” Shahnaaz said after taking oath as sarpanch on Monday, as reported by The Hindustan Times.
While the literacy rate in the Bharatpur district, 70.1 percent, is higher than the state average 66.1 percent, there is a noted disparity in the level of education of boys and girls – nearly 30 percent.
In fact, on the day of the election, Shahnaaz was in the middle of her fourth-year practical examinations for the MBBS course she is pursuing at Teerthanker Mahaveer Medical College and Research Center in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh. As far as her background goes, she studied at The Shri Ram School in Aravali, Gurgaon till Class 10, and did her Class 12 from Delhi Public School, Maruti Kunj.
Interestingly enough, the village- situated in the Mewat region that falls in both Haryana and Rajasthan - had been under the raj of her grandfather, Hanif Khan, for 55 years until 2015. He had to step down after it was proven by a court in October that year that his documents had been forged to prove that he meets the minimum Class 10 qualification required for sarpanch candidates, set by the Rajasthan Government.
Shahnaaz comes from a family of politicians – besides her grandfather, her mother Zahida Khan is a former MLA from Kaman constituency in the district, whereas her father, Jalees Khan, was Kaman pradhan (head of block-level panchayat body).
“My family is committed to serving the people. Shahnaaz joined politics to fulfil her grandfather’s dreams. She will serve the Meo (Muslim) community (the largest community inhabiting the region) because it is backward,” said Zahida, on the occasion.
Among the causes she will champion is also health and sanitation – something that would obviously come naturally to the aspiring doctor. “For instance, people here die of tuberculosis. The disease can be cured with a six-month course but people are unaware,” she noted.
She intends to finish her course and is set to start an internship at Civil Hospital in Gurgaon shortly, after which, she will also be studying for her entrance exams for her postgraduate degree, but, states confidently that these other commitments will not come in the way of her service.