NEW DELHI, July 13: An Indian village panchayat’s decree this week against love marriages and a blanket ban on the use of mobile phones by women has been likened by the local media to Taliban-like fatwa, but the federal government on Friday appeared hesitant to intervene against the village elders.
“The decision, which seems inspired by a Taliban-style diktat, has been taken by the panchayat in the Baraut tehsil of Bagpat, ostensibly to safeguard women from teasing,” The Hindu said on Friday.
It said the panchayat also issued a ‘farman’ (diktat) barring women up to the age of 40 from going to the market and using mobile phones in the village and outside their home after complaints of ‘teasing’ and ‘harassment’ were reported from the area.
The ‘farman’ was issued at the meeting of the panchayat of Asara village in Bagpat district on Tuesday after it discussed growing incidents of teasing in the village market. Asara is a Muslim-dominated village and several members of the minority community were present at the meeting, The Hindu said.
Bagpat was former prime minister Charan Singh’s parliamentary constituency and it has a high component of the powerful Hindu Jat peasants to which he belonged.
The panchayat ruled that to keep the young girls and women safe from “roadside Romeos”, they will not be allowed into the market place.
Worse, the panchayat has cautioned there will be severe punishment for those who violate the self-styled code of conduct.
The move has infuriated women’s rights activists. It could ordinarily be punished under several penal laws but Indian Home Minister P.
Chidambaram chose to urge the Uttar Pradesh administration to provide protection to potential victims of the regressive order.
“Instead of taking action against the alleged perpetrators involved in the harassment, the panchayat has decided to keep tabs on the women. It is barbaric and mindless. The diktat is also in violation of the Supreme Court’s orders against such khap panchayat decisions and is against the tenets of the Constitution,” said Ranjana Kumari, the director of the Centre for Social Research.