The Asaara panchayat in Baghpat district on Thursday set out rules for women under 40: 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.
Amid national outrage over an Uttar Pradesh panchayat’s Taliban-style diktat against women, defiant villagers yesterday thrashed two policemen for arresting two of the panchayat members.
Villagers attack cops
Two policemen who had gone to the village, about 450 km from here, were attacked and their motorcycle set on fire, an official said. The villagers fled after freeing the arrested panchayat members. The village also vented its ire at the media. Panchayat members asked camera crew and journalists to back off or face their ire, a police officer said, adding that arrangements were being made to ensure law and order.
Inspector General of Police Badri Prasad Singh said the ruling of the panchayat was unfair and unconstitutional. “The guilty would be brought to book and punished,” Singh said. He vowed to take action against those who attacked police personnel.
Meanwhile, as news about the diktat spread across India, the government, politicians and women’s groups were furious. Home Minister P Chidambaram said in Chandigarh that the diktat has no place in a democratic society. “Such diktats have no legal authority and the state should ensure that no one comes to harm for, quote unquote, violating the diktat,” he said.
Women politicians and activists were aghast. “Khap panchayats do not have constitutional power. Therefore, they have no right to make such laws. We are living in the 21st century,” said Mamta Sharma, chairperson of the National Commission for Women. BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman pitched for action by the government. “The diktat that women should cover their head and cannot use mobile phones, all this is wrong,” she said.
Brinda Karat of the Communist Party of India-Marxist added that the caste panchayats were entirely illegal. “Caste panchayats are self-declared bodies which have nothing to do with the framing of laws,” Karat said.
“Such panchayats have no existence in law and there is no point in agreeing to what they say,” said Girija Vyas, Congress leader and an MP. “It is sad how in today’s modern society too such old fashioned, archaic mindsets exist and they even try to force themselves on the women around them,” said Madhu Garg of the All India Democratic Women’s Association.