UP vote bank politics keep panchayats safe

The UP panchayat diktat barring women under 40 from using cell phones and going to the markets alone may have triggered nationwide outrage, the politicians in the state have so far not out rightly condemned the panchayats apparently fearing a backlash.

Vote bank politics has forced even progressive leaders like chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and Rashtriya Lok Dal MP Jayant Chaudhary to react in a guarded manner to the diktat.While Akhilesh has termed the panchayats’ diktats as ‘reality’ in the villages, Jayant went a step further and said he did not find anything wrong in the directives.

“As long as the order does not infringe upon anyone’s rights, it can not be said to be wrong”, Jayant said.

“The MPs in the parliament also sometimes speak about imposing restrictions on the media. Does it become binding? The elders of some communities simply sat together and gave some suggestions for smooth running of the society. They are mere suggestions not directives”, he added.

Earlier, senior minister Azam Khan had also defended the diktat.

“Panchayat order is not a diktat. Its just an opinion and the panchayat is free to express its opinion. We live in a democracy”, Khan said.

When Taslima Nasreen and Salman Rushdie (both controversial writers) say something, it is termed as freedom of speech and expression. When the panchayats say something on social matter, it is termed as talibani”, Khan said. “It is a social matter and the communities do take decisions as to how to conduct things in their societies”, Khan said and asserted that there was no need for the government to interfere in any way in the matter. “The government can interfere only if there is a law and order problem”, the minister added. There was no such situation at the moment, he said.

The Jats and Muslims are in sizeable numbers in the western UP districts and no party can afford to annoy them. The panchayat at Asara village had been attended by members of as many as 36 communities, including Hindu and Muslims.

“The parties need to show courage and rise above vote bank politics to take the panchayats head on. They must not surrender to them. It will be like taking us back by several years and adversely affect social progress”, said Shiv Pujan Pandey, a social worker.

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