India’s Talibani pockets: ‘Girls must not fall in love, wear jeans-tops or use mobiles’

Neha Pushkarna
Monday, 16-July-2012

 

In Baghpat’s Asara village, men consider subjugation of women almost a birth right. Many women don’t see anything wrong if they are not allowed mobile phones, finds Neha Pushkarna
Driving through the sun- bathed sugarcane fields leading to village Asaara in Baghpat district, the only noise one can hear are of the car bumping on the broad beaten path. When the village closes in, the picturesque scenery gives way to a large assembly of men chattering.
Two days after the village panchayat issued a slew of diktats to keep women in check, they seem to have succeeded. On Friday, young girls were veiled and stayed indoors, with men — of all ages — insisting that the village was finally on the path of reforms.
“Several incidents of women going astray had occurred in the last few years. Recently, a married woman left her children to marry a much younger guy. We are not exactly against love marriages.
But we do not want such couples to stay on in the village. They are bad influence on children,” said Mohammad Irfan, member of the zila panchayat, who also claimed to be a volunteer for the state human rights commission. The most vocal of all, Irfan, explained that children in the village were losing respect for elders; young men “made merry, not money” and women often eloped to get married in court.
“To curb all these bad practices, our panchayat thought of some reforms. Aurton ko jitna daba ke rakho utna achha rehta hai (The more you subjugate women the better it is). While a code of conduct was framed for women, we also selected two representatives to meet families and urge them to keep their values intact,” Irfan said.
The panchayat has dictated that woman have to keep their heads covered, not venture out to the weekly Wednesday market if they are less than 40 years, keep away from mobile phones and not live in the village if they fall in love. For men, the to- do list includes not wearing earphones while out on the streets.
The two panchayat representatives who were questioned by the police — Mohkam and Majahir — have already become heroes in the village. Officers from the Ramala police station picked up the duo for interrogation on Thursday night, following which the others gathered and blocked traffic outside the village. They claim they were lathicharged by the police. However, the police have registered a case against 17 people for assaulting a sub inspector and a constable and setting their motorcycle on fire.
On Friday, Irfan said the two have moved out of the village for a few days to maintain peace. The sad part is the men need not have to do much to make women follow the rules. They have already given in. The village, nearly 80 km from Delhi, has a population of over 16,000. When Irfan estimated 40 per cent of them would be women, an elder in the village shouted from across the verandah, “ Zyaada hongi khatoon. Ek ki teen hain (There must be more women. One man has three wives).” Villagers take pride in the fact that their daughters and wives do not have a voice. “Hum jo kehte hain who karti hain. Humne kaha toh ek bhi khatoon bazaar mein dikhi nahi ( We told them not to visit the market and none did),” said the village doctor, 58- year- old Mohammad Matiullah Khan Azad.
Women and girls agree. “My father has a mobile phone but I do not use it. What will I do with a mobile?” wondered Nagma, who waiting for her Class XII results and plans to do a course in nursing in Delhi. Her father, Mohammad Gayoor, says they do not mind educating the girls, but keeping them in control is a way of life. Nagma’s sister Naeem nods in agreement though speaking up is not her cup of tea. She looks at her mother for cues.
Sitting close by, 18- year- old Sul- tana worries more about shortage of electricity than her suppressed life. “Girls here only go out to school and come back. This keeps them safe. I wish someone could rather do something about the power cuts. We get electricity only for a few minutes every day,” she complained.
REACTIONS
Tension prevailed in Asara on Friday morning as villagers allegedly assaulted two policemen. In Lucknow, inspector general of police (law and order) Badri Prasad Singh confirmed the incident and said: “Those who were involved in the crime wouldn’t be spared.” Union home minister P. Chidambaram said: “There is no place for such diktats in a democratic society. If such a diktat is being issued in Bhagpat, I would expect the state government to instruct the police authorities to ensure that nobody comes to harm for violating that diktat.” UP’s urban development minister Azam Khan saw nothing wrong in the panchayat’s move.
“This is an internal decision of a panchayat. They are free to live according to their wish. The government comes into the scene when there is law and order problem,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 



    

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