Zahida Khan, daughter of Mewat (Haryana), needs no introduction as she had created history by becoming first woman MLA from Meo community in the country in year 2008. She fought assembly election from Kaman, Rajasthan from Congress party and became first Meo Muslim to win an MLA election after her father’s sudden demise and the record holds till date.
Meo-Muslims are considered to be the most backward section of the society. It is to be mentioned that majority of population of Meo is poor and illiterate and is among the most deprived section of the society.
Zahida is not only the first Meo woman MLA, but was also the sole representative of her community in the Rajasthan assembly during that period. She was elected from the Kaman constituency securing 48% of the polled votes. Not only this Zahida was also elevated to post of CPS(Chief Parliament Secretary) in Rajasthan during Congress regime of 2008-2013. She is also first Meo women to be General Secretary of All India Mahila Congress and a member of AICC (All India Congress Committee).
Born on March 6, 1963, Zahida is a law graduate from Delhi University and is married to an engineering graduate, Jalish Khan. She is also an active social worker in the Mewat region of Rajasthan, the area before she entered politics.
Zahida is no stranger to politics, as it virtually runs in her blood. Her grandfather, Mohammad Yasin Khan, along with Mahatma Gandhi, was instrumental in stopping Meo community from going to Pakistan in 1947. He was elected as an MLA in the first elections held in the country in 1926 and remained a member of the Punjab Assembly from 1926 to 1946 and then from 1952 to 1962. He was also elected unopposed from the Firozepur Jhirka assembly constituency in 1952. Yasin was the first advocate from Mewat and had promoted education among Meo and had even opened a school in Mewat which was later transformed as Yasin Meo Degree College Nuh by his son Tayyab Hussain. It is significant to mention that same college is by and large only major educational institute in Mewat and still is the venue of major government and political functions.
Zahida has also been elected as Chairman of Panchayat Samiti Kaman in the year 2000-2005. Her father Tayyab, former minister and MP, who was Chaudhary of Mewat and is the only politician in country to hold distinction of being minister from three different states i.e. Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan and no other politician has been able to match the record till date. He was also instrumental in getting OBC status for Meo community in Haryana. His elder son and Zahida’s elder brother Ch. Zakir Hussain, advocate apart from head of all the 36 communities of Mewat is a three time MLA from Nuh assembly constituency of Haryana and which is known as the capital of Mewat. Mewat region spreads from Haryana, Rajasthan, UP and MP to several other states.
Zahida feels that she is lucky to be born in a family which was progressive in outlook and way ahead of others in thinking. “My family always believed that education held the key to the uplift of the community,” she retreated. Zahida promises to continue the work started by her grandfather as she says, “I will continue to motivate the Meo’s to educate their girls so that they could meaningfully contribute to the development of the community.”
Zahida’s daughter Doctor Shahnaaj Khan recently became the youngest and most educated elected Sarpanch of Mewat which is another record. Zahida is now on the verge of making another record i.e. only Meo women to becomes a minister. With all the exit polls showing victory for Congress in Rajasthan (some even predicting 3/4 sweep), history is likely to be created yet again by the family which has several unchallenged records in its name. Looking at the kind of response she is getting from entire Mewat (Gurgaon to Nuh to Ferozpur Jhirka to Punhana) and especially within her constituency, it is very likely that she will create another history of being first Meo women minister in Rajasthan government. Political observers have already declared that she will won by a huge margin and opponents are fighting to save their deposit. Sitting BJP MLA from Kaman, Jagat Singh(son of former union cabinet minister K. Natwar Singh) has already expressed his desire of not contesting this time and is not in fray.
(Rajeev Yadav a Supreme Court advocate National President of Adhikaar the rights path, NGO. Views expressed here are the author’s own).