RAJOURI: Joining the vast league of highly educated young men and women taking interest in grassroots democracy is Javed Iqbal Choudhary who has a masters degree in environmental sciences and interests in IT and infrastructure engineering.
Contesting from Rehan Panchayat, a cluster of seven diverse hamlets, Javed did his primary schooling from the same village, moved to Rajouri, Jammu and Delhi for higher education and then went on to set up business in IT services and later diversified into infrastructure engineering.
While there are quite a few other high educated young people running for village Panchayats but Javed’s accomplished family background made him an unusual Sarpanch material. His brother, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary is an IAS officer, currently a Deputy Commissioner in Kashmir while another brother is a senior journalist and author of several books. His sister is a doctor and wife postgraduate in Biotechnology. But Javed picked up politics at the grassroots unit of democracy.
Javed says, “back then, in terms of resources and exposure, leaving village for Rajouri, just 20 KMs away, was like going abroad”. The return journey, he says, is never without difficulties but is most satisfying and joyous when one looks at the task -serving people at the smallest level. “This might sound unbelievable in the cacophony of hundreds of welfare schemes but no single household in our Panchayat has farm produce to sustain a family’s livelihood for more than a month”, reveals Javed who adds that not long ago his family also had a similar share. He says, “through the institution of Panchayats I will work with dedication to turn around this plight of people”
Why back to village and it’s smaller politics?
Our father enabled us with best of possible opportunities for education, out of his meagre resources and thoroughly difficult life. He gave us absolute freedom of choices but all along life there was one rider: “return to the roots”. Javed’s father, Choudhary Salam Din, a highly popular figure of the area for his social work and religious scholarship, was running for the Sarpanch election in Rehan Panchayat when he died of cardiac failure while campaigning in the village on November 7. “I had come to assist my father in his campaign. He died literally boots on. His last journey, his last words to his people and then the last breath is captured in my eyes and soul”, says Javed as he further adds, “I have not been able to have a single private moment and space to grieve. My father’s words – return to the roots – were so powerful that I had to throw away my shoes of urban ambitions and fit into his”. “It is time to keep my father’s words to his people, I reassured myself and started visiting people. I visited every single house to meet people and know their state of being”, said Javed.
“There are well organised institutions to run systems in towns and cities. The presence of higher bureaucracy and the media and various forms of activism further helps enhance accountability in urban areas but our villages are still in another world”, says Javed who further adds, “I draw my analysis from personal experiences of having seen and lived both worlds”.
Refering to his IAS brother, Javed says, “If someone from this village can crack country’s toughest exam I am fully convinced everyone else has the potential for a bright future”. Now since I have left a lot to return to my roots, the ultimate aim of my life is to make Rehan Panchayat one of most prosperous in the state, says Javed who secured 90% of the total votes polled. Rehan Panchayat had registered a turnout of 87%.