national outrage over a Uttar Pradesh panchayat's Taliban-style
diktat against women, defiant villagers Friday thrashed two
policemen for arresting two of the panchayat members.
The Asaara panchayat in Baghpat district 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.
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 told IANS.
He vowed to take action against those who attacked police
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.
Bharatiya Janata Party 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
"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.