MUZZAFARNAGAR: A Muslim village council in Uttar Pradesh has issued a diktat that bans girls from using mobile phones and wearing jeans and t-shirts.
The ban has been implemented in more than 10 villages of Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur districts.
“The kind of clothes that unmarried girls in our community wear, for example netted or if they are semi-clothed, this is not decent according to the rules of Islam. We live in villages, it might be allowed in cities but it is not allowed in villages and our village council, our organisation has totally banned it,” said Mohammad Irfan, the president of the council.
These village councils, which comprise of rich, upper-caste, elderly men wearing long white tunics, have governed the northern countryside, exerting social control through patriarchal diktats that not only clash with a country moving towards more liberal attitudes, but also challenge the law of the land.
Acting as de-facto courts for millions of Indians, the councils or ‘Khap Panchayats’, settle disputes on everything from land and cattle to matrimony and murder, helping maintain social order in a country where access to justice can be difficult for the poor and uneducated.
The families failing to comply with the orders of the village council are first ‘counseled’ and if they still continue to flout rules then they are boycotted.
The 17-member council then takes a final call on the fate of those who do not follow their diktat.
The villagers reason that providing mobile phones to unmarried girls may increase crimes against women.
“We don’t think it is good for unmarried girls to use mobile phones. God forbid, if they talk to someone (men), it results in increase of crimes and mischief, so we have banned it. In fact, I think only the married men, the responsible men should carry mobile phones,” said Mohammad Akbar, a villager.
Akbar suggested the mobiles should be provided to married men who can handle the gadget “with responsibility”.
Meanwhile, the village council has also banned the custom of dowry and stressed on compulsory education for children.
However, the councils are coming under growing scrutiny because of their brutal forms of punishment, prompting some women rights activists to label them the ‘Taliban of India’.