Women panchayats add to trouble

As if the battle to maintain communal harmony and send displaced riot victims back home is not challenging enough, the Uttar Pradesh government has a new headache in the form of “women panchayats”, in the sensitive western region.

Officials have admitted that women from hundreds of villages in Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring districts have been on the forefront of the agitations against the local police and the authorities for what they allege “discriminatory arrests” after the riots.
The panchayat that turned violent in Meerut on Sunday had indeed been convened by the women of Kheda village, though they later allowed men to take part as well.

Undeterred by police action at Kheda, women have decided to assemble a “Mahapanchayat” of 84 villages on October 10. The decision was taken at an all-women panchayat at Kutba village in Muzaffarnagar district. The village had witnessed large scale communal violence a few weeks back.

District officials said that they did not have enough women cops to deal with any violent situation. “There are barely a few hundred women cops in the district...they are not sufficient to tackle the situation',” said a senior police official.

“The presence of a large number of women in the panchayats make it very difficult for us to use force and disperse the people....we can not use the male cops to disperse women,” the official said.

Incidentally the wives of the arrested BJP MLAs Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana have been organizing the panchayats and demonstrations to protest their husbands' arrest. The police have even booked Som's wife for inciting violence at Meerut on Sunday.

There have been several all-women “panchayats” after the Muzaffarnagar communal violence. At least five separate “panchayats” of women were held at different villages in the district on Friday in which the participants (only women) burnt effigy of senior UP minister Azam Khan and decided to offer themselves for arrest if the police entered their villages to apprehend the menfolk.

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