Khap orders girls off cellphone 'trap'

A khap panchayat in a Rajasthan village has banned unmarried girls from using mobile phones, saying they might get trapped in uneasy situations if they did.

By Rakhee Roy Talukdar in Jaipur
  • Published 2.07.15
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Jaipur, July 1: A khap panchayat in a Rajasthan village has banned unmarried girls from using mobile phones, saying they might get trapped in uneasy situations if they did.

The order has been circulated on, well, WhatsApp.

The directive comes at a time a similar caste panchayat in Uttar Pradesh is alleged to have threatened a film director with death and demanded a ban on his film, which ridicules such unconstitutional "courts" of village elders.

The mobile-ban order, which spared boys, came from the Choudhary Jaatiye Panchayat in Kanana, a village in Barmer district, some 390km from Jaipur.

Girls have been asked to follow the order strictly, though the panchayat members denied that violators would be punished. The order, they claimed, was only to maintain harmony within the community.

Naga Ram, the panchayat treasurer, confirmed the order. "We have asked young girls to keep away from mobiles as they may get trapped and find themselves in uneasy situations," Ram told The Telegraph. "This may happen if someone clicks obscene pictures of them. This is happening everywhere and, moreover, the girls in our community are so naïve that they may fall into a trap. It is only an advice, but a good one, which should be followed by all."

Kanana's former sarpanch Ganeshram Choudhary endorsed what Ram said. "Girls often keep chatting away on their phones rather than study. We want our girls to study well and banning mobiles is one way of doing it," he explained.

Asked why the order didn't apply to boys, he said: "Girls are always vulnerable."

The Choudhary community, which falls in the category of Other Backward Classes, numbers around 400 families in Kanana.

Village sarpanch Seema Kunwar's husband Mohan Singh Rajpurohit made it clear the khap panchayat expected its order to be followed. "If anybody dares disobey, her family will be ostracised."

But what prompted such a resolution? "There may have been incidents of girls running away," he said. "The order is being circulated on WhatsApp."

Rajpurohit added: "Elders and panchayat members of about 48 villages gathered and took the decision."

Rights activist Kavita Srivastav said: "There is a Supreme Court order restraining these kinds of diktats, calling them illegal. Police don't want to take action. We have asked for an FIR and removal of the (local) thana, which we think is working in collusion with the community."

Barmer police chief P. Deshmukh, however, said he had not received any complaints yet.