Furious that two of their panchayat members had been arrested, villagers in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat region Friday beat up two policemen investigating the panchayat’s ‘Taliban’ diktat banning women from using cell phones, going to the market or walking unescorted.
The policemen, who had arrested two panchayat members, had gone to Asaara village in Baghpat, about 450 km from here, after senior officials took cognizance of the diktat and dispatched a team to probe the matter.
The policemen were brutally attacked and their motorcycle set on fire, said an official, adding that the villagers fled after freeing the arrested panchayat members.
According to Inspector General of Police (Law&Order) Badri Prasad Singh, the ruling of the panchayat was not just unfair to women but also unconstitutional.
“The guilty would be brought to book and punished,” Badri Prasad told IANS. He added that strict action would be taken against those who attacked the police personnel.
The village also vented its ire at the media that had gathered.
Panchayat members asked camera crews and journalists to back off or face their anger, a local police official said, adding that arrangements were being made to ensure law and order.
The Asaara panchayat had Thursday set out a series of rules for women under 40 — that they should cover their heads, not use mobile phones, not leave the house after sunset.
It also banned the entry of couples who had a love marriage.
The Asara panchayat’s ruling has led to outrage.
“It is sad to see how in today’s modern society too, such old fashioned, archaic mindsets exist and that they even try to force themselves on the women around them,” said Madhu Garg of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA).
Added Naheed Verma, another activist: “I am bewildered why the government and the police does not clamp down on such elements once and for all. How can this be allowed and tolerated in today’s era.”
Women activists slam feudal panchayats, demand action
Reacting to the decision of a Khap panchayat (community council) in an Uttar Pradesh village – banning love marriages and restricting movement of women out of homes – women activists Friday came down hard on the feudal bodies, saying “they do not have any legal recognition”.
The activists urged the government to motivate people to reject the diktats of such panchayats.
“Panchayats do not have constitutional power. Therefore, they have no right to make such laws. We are living in the twenty-first century and when such incidents take place, it is ironical,” Mamta Sharma, chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW), told reporters.
“The government should take some action and tell the people not to accept what these panchayats say,” Sharma added.
Among various diktats pronounced by a Khap panchayat Thursday in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat district, women in the Asaara village were asked to cover their heads before leaving homes. Women, younger than 40, were directed not to leave home after sunset.
Brinda Karat, politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said the panchayats are entirely “illegal” in existence.
“Panchayats are self-declared bodies which have nothing to do with the framing of laws. All the fatwas, diktats and farmans (orders) directed by them are illegal,” Karat said.
Villagers at the community gathering in Asaara village declared that couples who opt for love marriages would be excommunicated.
The women activists demanded action from the government to motivate people to boycott the hardliners who come up with such diktats.
“Such panchayats have no existence in law and there is no point in agreeing to what they say,” said Girija Vyas, Congress leader and member of parliament.
“Government should come forward and tell the people that there is a constitution. And such panchayats have no identity before it,” Vyas told a news channel.