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Inspiring Saga of Bihar Malalas

By Jawed Akhter

New Delhi: The saga of two sisters in Bihar reminds us of the courage of Malala Yousafzai who has been fighting for girls’ education. Mehar Jahan and her younger sister Gauhar Jahan from Madhubani district of Bihar did not give up hope for higher education even after the brutal murder of their father and two brothers. They still writhe with agony when they remember the day–14 November 2010 – when their father and brothers were mercilessly murdered because of a quarrel over a piece of land.

“I was always fond of studying and stayed awake reading up till 1.30 am. Sometime after 2 a.m., I heard a noise,” she said. That “noise” turned out to be the sound of gunshots. An hour later, Gauhar’s father Mohammad Shafiqullah Ansari and two brothers were found dead. “Our father pleaded before the hooligans to leave his family and take whatever they want, but they did not listen to him,” said the two sisters. The third brother could not bear the shock of death of his father and two brothers and consequently succumbed to his death. Their younger brother, luckily, was saved as he was out of the village on that fateful night.  

Mohammad Shafiqullah Ansari was a retired school teacher who wanted his daughters to be well-educated, but this was harshly opposed by his neighbours who wanted them to quit education and be married early. The sisters are survived by their younger brother, an old mother and their widowed sisters-in-law. The culprits were caught but are yet to be sentenced.

These sisters, though witnesses of the killing, kept tight-lipped for months as shock engulfed them. When they were able to get out of grief, they continued their studies. It was not possible for them to forget this incident but still they doggedly pursued their goal. Initially, they were helped by a teacher and a friend of their father, Mr. Jageshwar, who paid the expenses for their education. Gauhar appeared in the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT) in 2012, and cracked it but her rank allowed her to enrol only in the dental course. But, without surrendering to despair, she again appeared in 2013 and was ranked 194. Now she is studying at Lady Hardinge Medical College, Delhi and trying to fulfill her father’s dream. On the other hand, her sister, Mehar Jahan, is pursuing B.Tech in computer science from IETE, Delhi as she was interested in engineering. But meeting their expenses is still a challenge for them.  

Inspired and motivated by their father, Mehar and Gauhar used to teach children of the poor families when they lived in their village. Mehar said, “My father never differentiated between sons and daughters. He is our role model.” Gauhar added, “After completing my education in medical science, I want to start a hospital in my village where I can serve people.”

Expressing her anguish, Gauhar said why people are unable to change their mentality towards girls? Why do they not allow their girls to get education? Girls too can be a helping hand for their parents like boys.

Rajya Sabha MP Mohammad Ali Anwar, now mentor of these girls, said, “I came to know about these girls very late. But now I will help them out as far as possible.” He added that people from our community should come forward to help such girls so that they could stand on their feet and give back to the community when they become successful professionals.

Undoubtedly, these sisters have travelled a long and painful journey overcoming their grief and trial. Their story, like Malala’s, is a great source of inspiration.  

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-28 February 2015 on page no. 1

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