By Saman Siddiqui
As the phone rings on the other side, I could hear the ring tone set to the famous national song, O beautiful land! May Allah keep you happy forever,” (”Sohni Dharti, Allah rakhay”), “May we see you free as long as the world lasts!”. ”It is through you that honor and glory is ours, yours is the proud name by which we are known…
And in a while Krishna Kumari Kholi picked up the phone. I left her a message that I would be calling the other day to interview her on call. She was on her way to somewhere, but she managed to talk. Down to earth she was, been nominated as the Senate candidate by Pakistan People’s Party. A rights activist belonging to the Kolhi community living in the remote village of Dhana Gam in Nagarparkar, She was born on Feb 1, 1979. Her parents named her Kishoo Bai, who had a tough childhood when she along with her family members and relatives were held as bonded labor, more like prisoners.
On a question that, while being captive did you ever think of being in this position, she replied, ‘No never, at that time it never occurred. All I wanted was to go out and have my education completed.”
They were set free in a police raid on the farmland of their employer. She was 16 years old when she got married; her husband helped and supported her to continue studying. Now 38, she holds a Master’s degree in sociology from Sindh University.
I asked what the response in her community is. Krishna replied, “Everyone is so happy with the news of the nomination. Since independence, there hasn’t been any achievement for anyone in our community. People are very happy on local level.”
Krishna Kumari is a member of the Kohli tribe of the Hindu community living in the Nagarparker area of Thar. Krishna’s nomination for a Senate seat is symbolic indeed; it is message to the world that Pakistani women are empowered, a formidable symbol. Krishna Kumari could become the first woman from Pakistan’s scheduled Hindu caste to be elected to the Senate. If elected, she would become the second Hindu woman to be elected to Pakistan’s senate after Ratna Bhagwandas Chawla.
The concept of empowerment is often misinterpreted by the popular culture, by putting emphasis on the accomplishments of the subjective emotions, which makes one feel empowered.
Though, empowerment according to its very definition means increasing one’s actual influence within the social sphere where he or she belongs, whether it’s done within relationship parameters or in a larger social context like being a citizen of a country.
Krishna sets an example of an empowered woman in all aspects; she started her social service activities in 2007, on various levels in Tharparker.
I asked her about the photograph of her which I received while planning for this blog, in that she is seen sitting beside Raza Rabbani – present chairman Senate, wearing traditional Thar dress Lehnga Choli and hands laden with white bangles.
Krishna replied, ”That photo is from 2010. We went to parliament house, an event was arranged in accordance of woman’s day celebrations”.
Then I questioned her, is there any difference between the Krishna wearing Thar’s traditional Lehnga choli and the Krishna who now wears metropolitan dress?
She answered, ”There is a difference. At that time I came to participate, as a participant, I didn’t have any know how about speaking and representing myself. And now I am going to sit in the upper house and I will have my office there, there is a lot of difference”.
She also revealed that she plans to wear the traditional Thar dress for the oath taking ceremony after winning senate elections. She is contesting for general seat nominated by PPP. The opposition Pakistan People’s Party has asked all of its lawmakers to vote for Krishna Kumari in the March 3 elections for the upper house of parliament.
And later I asked, ‘Has Krishna got the same heart?’ She replied, ”Yes, for sure my heart is the same”.
What have you further thought to do in your community? I asked. “I want to work for woman’s rights; I want to bring women of the locality forward. And I want to work for their education”, she replied.
Is there any message that you want to give?
Krishna replied, ” I want to give message to women, as my work focus on women and girls; I want to tell them to get education as it is the only thing which can take us anywhere, where ever we aim to be”.
Keeping her story in mind, vulnerability is subjective, we shouldn’t be afraid to admit that we hurt and face battles each day. But we can win if we never lose infinite hope.