Zulikha Bano became the first women to be a lawyer from her native Balti community in Ladakh. Zulikha and her four siblings (three sisters and a brother) are from Bogdang, a border area. Zulikha studied at the Army Goodwill School till Class 4, which was established by Lt. Gen (Retd.) Arjun Ray.
Zulikha’s father Ahmed Shah remembers that in 2000, he was appointed as the village Numberdar. At that time, many basic things like watching television were restricted let alone educating girls. He says that he always maintained respect for modern education unlike many of his contemporaries, who imposed several restrictions on freedom of women. Ahmed says that he enrolled his two daughters and son into the Army Goodwill School. Many locals would criticize his decision by saying that he has strayed away from the path of Islam.
Soon, enraged by his decision to educate girls, the society he belonged to started maintaining distance from him. His family members were stopped from entering into the local mosque and if anyone was seen associating with them, he or she would have to pay fine.
Ahmed felt harassed by his contemporaries regressive thinking and decided to shift Zulikha and Shabbir to Dehradun for further studies while he along with rest of the family moved to Leh. Zulikha remembers that when she was in Class 4, her father had to sell his favourite gypsy in order to fund their education.
Even though residents of Bogdang had differences with Ahmed in the past, most of them appreciate the efforts and sacrifices which Ahmed made for a better future of his children. A resident of Bogdang who works in Delhi told The Better India that people’s thinking has gone through a major shift in the past decade. People have started to allow their daughters to graduate. Families have realised that they need to educate their daughters too along with their sons.
Zulikha is planning to work as an advocate and will start practising in Nubra. She dreams of becoming a judge one day. Next month, she will visit the High Court to finish her registration and will start her practice. However, she also wishes to start an NGO in Bogdang for children with physical and mental disabilities.
(The Better India)