Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Khap Panchayat: Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) supports diktat of Baghpat khap panchayat

Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) supports diktat of Baghpat Khap Panchayat

LUCKNOW, UTTAR PRADESH, INDIA: After Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), the Rashtriy Lok Dal (RLD) and All India Jat Arakshan Samiti (AIJAS) have also come out in support the diktat of a Panchayat at the Asara village of District Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh. The diktat puts restrictions on the movement of girls and women.

Rashtriy Lok Dal (RLD MP and the party chief Ajit Singh's son Jayant Chaudhary visited the Panchayat members on Saturday. Later, talking to Media Persons, he said: "Everybody has a right to manage the affairs of one's family the way they want. They (the Panchayat members) are doing just that. It is no diktat. It is a mere suggestion from their side." He however cleverly avoided answering direct media queries on the issue of women's rights and whether the Panchayat orders were infringing them.

Asara village falls in the parliamentary constituency of the Rashtriy Lok Dal (RLD chief Chaudhary Ajit Singh. Earlier, a meeting was held at the village and it was decided that a Mahapanchayat would be held on July 21 in which Khap Panchayats from other parts of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana will also be invited.

While Uttar Pradesh's senior minister Mohammed Azam Khan has already said that the Panchayat decision did not merit any action unless it clashed with the laws of the land, Union home minister P Chidambaram insisted that such Panchayat diktats and fatwas had no place in a civil society.

Khap leader slams Chidambaram

Meanwhile, All India Jat Arakshan Samiti (AIJAS) has also supported the ban. "We endorse the decision taken by Panchayat in Asara village and will ask all the Panchayats in Uttar Pradesh and adjoining states to follow it," Mr. Yashpal Malik, President of AIJAS, told TOI. He slammed the Central government and Union home minister P Chidambaram for calling Khap Panchayat and their decisions undemocratic. He said that a section of media is painting Khap Panchayat in bad light. "We are also opposing to dowry system and female feticide but it is not being highlighted. Instead the decisions we take for orderliness in the society in accordance with our traditions are dubbed as 'Talibani'," he said.

"We have no objection in Mr. Chidambaram wearing a south India dress and following traditions of the community he belongs. Similarly, he should have no objection if people of other communities want to follow their own tradition and personal code. The decision taken by the Panchayat in Asra Village was an `advisory' and not a `diktat'," said Yashpal Malik. "The advisory also included restriction on boys from taking photograph of girls on mobile phone to check its misuse. Similarly, it restricted both men and women from using ear phones while walking or driving because it can lead to accident. Girls were asked not to visit a mela following complaints of eve-teasing. Boy found involved in eve-teasing were punished," Malik added. 

Further, Malik said "Girls and women were asked to cover head as per the tradition. Restriction of love marriage has been after boys and girls of 15-16 years age eloped. This is the age for education and not marriage. It was clearly stated in the instructions that those who don't want to follow can go elsewhere, hence Panchayat did not impose anything on people. In India, one finds variety of customs and traditions. In south, a girl can be married to maternal uncle but here a boy and girl of a village are considered to be siblings because for us entire village is a family." Pointing out towards the proposed law of the central government on banning Khap Panchayats, he warned that such a move will force JATS to launch a massive agitation. 

All India Jat Arakshan Samiti (AIJAS) is an umbrella body of various Jat associations which was formed to push the demand of granting Jats status of other backward class and subsequent benefit of reservation in central government services and educational institutions. The AIJAS had last year in March blocked rail routes in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab for 20 days throwing normal life out gear. 

On Wednesday, The Panchayat in Asara village in District Baghpat's Ramala area had issued instructions restricting movement of women and girls. The instructions included covering of head by women whenever they leave home, a complete ban on love marriages and those doing so would not be allowed to live in the village, no mobile phones for girls and only women above 40 years of age were allowed to venture out of house for work among other things. 

Local residents claimed the Panchayat had issued the directives after a consensus was reached on them by members several communities living in the village. On Friday, a police team was attacked when it went there to question village head in connection with the diktat. In Lucknow, Urban development and Minority affair minister Mr.
Azam Khan also issued a statement saying that he does not find anything wrong in a `group of villagers expressing their opinion'. Khan's statement is being seen as `appeasement' of Muslims and hardliners in west UP from where Azam comes. BKU president and chief of Baliyan khap panchayat Mr. Naresh Tikait had also supported the diktat of Asara Village Panchayat. 

THE JAT is a highly patriarchal ethnic group having presence in Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs of north India. Their population is believed to be around 8.25 crore across nine states in India. In UP, their population is around 2.75 crore. In terms of percentage, JATS are only 6-7% of the total population of Uttar Pradesh, but they constitute 17% of the populace in the Western Uttar Pradesh and can affect elections in 55 assembly constituencies and 10 
lok Sabha constituencies. In Mathura Jats are 40% of the population and around 30% in Baghpat. Known for their Khap Panchayat diktats, JATS in Uttar Pradesh basically an agrarian community.

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