While the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre vigorously advocates women empowerment with its ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign, a Haryana government advertisement describing 'ghoonghat' (veil) as the "identity of the State" has sparked a controversy, with the opposition terming it as a reflection of the "regressive" mindset of the BJP government.
The recent issue of Krishi Samvad, a supplement of the Haryana Samvad, a monthly magazine published by the state government, carries a photograph of a veiled woman.
The woman's face can be seen covered with a 'ghoongat'. The woman is seen carrying cattle feed on her head, even as the caption reads: "Ghoongat ki aan-baan, mahre Haryana ki pechchan (pride of the veil is the identity of my Haryana)".
The front cover of the magazine carries the photo of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
Reacting sharply to the description, former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and senior Congress leader and party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said it reflected the regressive attitude of the ruling BJP government.
"This shows regressive mindset of the BJP government. Women from Haryana are ahead in every field. Just three days back, a young woman from the state was crowned as Miss India. Girls from the state have made a mark in sports arena and other fields. India-born US astronaut late Kalpana Chawla hailed from Haryana," Hooda said.
"Women wearing veil was not the original culture of Haryana. This practice started only after foreign invasions and because of the fear of invaders. In south India, there was no 'purdah' system. Therefore, what I want to say is that BJP government wants to move back in time rather than thinking ahead and taking the state forward," he said.
Surjewala said it was a "regressive mindset and objectification of women, which is part of the DNA of the BJP".
"The BJP government has failed to realise that Haryana girls and women have excelled in fields such as space science, sports and the armed forces to name just a few."
However, senior Haryana minister Anil Vij dismissed the opposition’s charge, saying that BJP government had taken a number of steps for women empowerment and was not endorsing that women should be forced to keep a 'ghoongat'.
Dismissing the opposition criticism, Vij told PTI over phone, "What you are seeing in a government magazine should only be seen as what was Haryana's tradition. Nowhere are we saying that we want to force veil on women. We are in favour of women empowerment and we have done a lot in this regard".
He said the sex ratio has improved from 862 to 950 as a result of the steps taken by the state government.
"We are committed to women's education and have decided to open colleges for women after every 20 km. As regards the photo in the magazine, this has been the tradition in some parts of the state, but it is not binding.
"We are not forcing anyone to wear ghoongat. It is not like burqa and only those women who want to do ghoongat, it is as per their wish," Vij said.