Villagers thrash cops for probing panchayat fatwa

Villagers at Asara in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat district on Friday thrashed cops who reached there to investigate reports about an alleged directive by a panchayat banning love marriages.

The panchayat has also barred women under 40 from using cell phones and going to local markets. It has also enforced a strict code of conduct for boys and girls. The villagers were enraged over, what they termed, “interference in their social affairs” by the police.

The mob torched a motor bike and assaulted an inspector and a constable, who had reached the village to investigate the matter. The villagers also forced the cops to release two members of the panchayat who had been arrested by the police. The villagers said the police were interfering in their social affairs, which would not be allowed. The media personnel, who visited the place, were also warned and asked to keep off the village.

“A case has been registered against nine people. And 250 others who are unidentified have also been booked in this regard. Stern action will be taken against rioters,” officials said here. “Such unconstitutional orders will not be tolerated,” said Inspector General of Police, law and order, Badri Prasad Singh.

The State Women’s Commission has also issued a notice to the Baghpat police chief seeking an explanation in the matter.

Senior minister Azam Khan, however, said that every one was free to express his opinion in a democracy. “The government will come in the picture only when there is a law and order problem,” he said. A panchayat of several community members in the Jat-dominated district, about 450 km from here, has banned love marriages and issued a strict code of conduct for the boys and girls and warned of stern action if their orders are violated.

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