Asara Panchayat- what really occurred
Asara- A village, a community demonized for a TRP rating?.
Asara till last year was a nondescript small village in Western U.P.. Now it is the symbol of repression of women, of banning them from using mobiles, taking evening walks or going to the market unescorted.
It has become a lightning rod, for all discussions regarding Khaps and their Panchayats whom media increasingly define as repressive, talibani, anti women, and instigators of and the direct cause of honour killing, by issuing Fatwas and Farmans for the killing of young couples.
The story quickly went viral world wide, and received huge attention from media, Politicians, and the administration and the Police. TV shows were done debates were held,. The atmosphere was charged. The Khaps, and the Jat community were accused in no small measure of repression of women, honour killing etc etc. Many of these videos are online and can be viewed at the links given below.
So much so, the Supreme Court recently ( January 13, 2013), saw fit to issue a stricture that it would illegal for Khaps to ban women from using mobiles or go out of the house unescorted. NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday said it was an offence to order women not to use mobile phones or to dress in a particular manner and warned that no one can run a parallel matrimony court to issue diktats against the law to harass young couples.
"Imposing a dress code on women and asking them not to use mobile phones, are such orders not socially retrograde? But these are also against the law. How can anyone ask women not to carry a mobile phone," a bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana P Desai asked while hearing a PIL which sought protection of young couples marrying inter-caste or within the same gotra from the wrath of khaps."
Researching this matter , the accepted view is something like this:
Asara is a village in Western U.P. in the District of Baghpat., about 70 km North of Delhi. It is composed mostly of Jats, about 2/3rd of whom had followed Islam, their forefathers having accept Islam. The remainder were Hindu Jats.
Apparently on or about June 13, 2012, they held a Panchayat and passed a few resolution, the prominent being:
1) No women to be allowed to use Mobiles.
2) No women under the age of 40 to be allowed out the house unescorted in the evening or to the weekly market.
3) Girls not to be allowed to wear Jeans
4) No Love Marriages to be allowed.
The resolutions do not mention the punishment for breaking the rules, but one can extrapolate that " honour killing " would be the punishment of first choice.
As if this was not enough, to compound the matter, a Khap Panchayat was held on June 20, called by a Jat leader Yashpal Malik, which also supported the Asara Panchayat resolutions.
As a topping off, in the ensuing furor the State administration asked the local police to investigate and take action. The local police went to try and arrest the two leaders Mhakkam and Mohijid for questioning, The villagers reacted badly blocked the highway, beat up the hapless police constables, and burnt their motor cycle. The two leaders were subsequently taken into custody and then released.
In the media stories and the TV debates that followed, the village Panchayat was described as Khap Panchayat. That in current media terminology, is defined as being regressive, retrograde, medieval, Talibanic , anti women rights and perpetuators of all evils against women, specifically - Honour Killing. That Asara was a prominently Muslim village, was also a godsend for the TRP rating chasers. Every quasi-left wing liberal organization jumped into the fray and made hay.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT ASARA?
Skimming through the media articles over the past seven months or so, certain inconsistencies started to annoyingly put up their heads.
Three articles present other views:
AbhimanySingh writing for the Sunday Guardian on August 26, 2012, writes:
" While the orders were initially assumed to be a reflection of the patriarchal order prevailing in the village, this newspaper found that women of the village are equally in support of the move.
As far as jeans are concerned, she said that girls who lived in the village did not wear them. "It is only those who study outside and come home for holidays who wear them," she said. This correspondent, however, saw a young girl walking around in jeans without anyone objecting to it.
Speaking to this newspaper, Md. Israel, a village elder and relative of a panchayat member, blamed the media for sensationalising the issue. "You can see the girls walking around freely, doing their household work, and going to school. Not all of them are in purdah. The new norms have been imposed keeping in mind the situation in the village. The media has wrongly portrayed us as Taliban," said Israel. His own daughter holds a PhD, he said."
Sapna Madan , a Journalist writes:
The Asara Panchayat on Tuesday denied issuing any diktat against the freedom of womenfolk and blamed the media for "misrepresentation of facts."
"I was not in town at that time but on my return, I realised that elders in the village had a meeting in which they decided to ask girls to refrain from using mobiles, wearing western clothes, going out alone etc. During the meeting, the seniors deplored the age-old practice of dowry being given at the time of marriage to the family of the groom. It was also decided that both boys and girls must be sent to school for education. The Media did not present the correct picture of the decisions taken at that meeting," one Haji Salim from Asara village said explaining the "guidelines" issued by the Panchayat on Saturday.
General Secretary of Jat Mahasabha Yudhvir Singh dismissed any role of the Khap Panchayat in these guidelines.
"It was no way the decision of the Khap Panchayat. The meeting was held among some responsible people of the village who unanimously arrived at the decision to issue guidelines because of sharp rise in the number of criminal incidences against women in the village," Singh stated.
"We dont want misbehaviour with women on the streets which was a rountine thing here. The women were simply asked to be careful, and to move out with the men of the family in order to ward off any mishappening," Yudhvir explained.
Interestingly, some women from Asara village came out in open support of the "guidelines."
"When Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who is from Italy, can wear Indian traditional outfits then why we as Indians should not do the same. Girls must wear suit-salwar only", said Reema (name changed on request) from Asara village.
"Provocative clothes should not be worn as they are the cause of rape many a time. Girls are raped because they go out wearing jeans practically inviting a rape. We are happy to shun our western outfits and mobile phones," said Shama (name changed on request).
Beerpal Rathi, an activist fighting for farmers' rights in Asara village, informed that the chief of the Panchayat does not take any interest in day-to-day affairs of the village. He lives in New Delhi and broadly manages things from there.
"Also police is not active in our area. When the entire village has happily accepted the precautionary measures or guideliness or what the Media is dubbing as diktats, why is the Central government reacting to it? The Media should also not unnecessarily flare up the matter," he advised.
Soumik Mukherjee, a Jounalsit with the investuigatibe=ve Magazine Tehelka, writes:
LAST WEEK, television news channels reported the story of a Khap decision in Asara village, in Uttar Pradesh's Baghpat district, banning young girls from using mobile phones and marrying out of love. It also reported that girls in the village were barred from going to the local market without a male escort. In reality, the `Khap' was held by two villagers in their late 40s, Muhakkam Pehelwan and Mujahid, and a few others.
Five days after the diktats were issued, a group of young girls was standing at a village bus stand, talking on their mobile phones. Some young boys passing by in a tractor took digs at each other. "Don't take out that phone," said a 20-year-old youngster to his friend, "or you'll be thrown out of the village." And then, they all burst out laughing. For a village that had issued tough diktats on women, the atmosphere was surprisingly relaxed.
The puzzling difference between what was reported and what actually took place in the village is best explained by two local journalists. A stringer of a news channel, on the condition of anonymity, says the whole thing was a small affair that no one in the media cared to report about. A small gathering of villagers had met initially to sort out a family quarrel that arose out of a love marriage between an already-married woman and her neighbour. The couple was asked to leave the village to avoid any ugly scenarios. It was not until a few days later, on 11 July, that it turned into a `Khap Panchayat'.
Shockingly, the journalist says the meeting was orchestrated at the TV crews' behest after they missed the original gathering of villagers. "They were saying what we wanted them to say. Let them," he says. TEHELKA couldn't verify these claims independently. But if true, it's plausible that the Panchayat members, playing to the gallery, went overboard and issued the set of diktats that included, inter alia, the banning of mobile phones for women below 40. But Asara has not always been like this.
"You cannot expect this place to be as liberal as a city, but girls are relatively free here," says Zil-E-Deen, a village elder. The Panchayat's decision is barely reflected in the people's interactions. Some even criticise it. "Many girls from our villages go to colleges in nearby towns. The diktat was unwarranted," says Younus, another village elder. Afsana, 21, nods in agreement. "I don't own a mobile phone so there is no question of flaunting one. But if people have phones, they will flaunt them. What's wrong with that?" she asks.
Interestingly, Muhakkam Pehelwan, one of the men who called the panchayat that imposed the bans, had contested for the post of the village head and lost. Says Avinash Kumar Misra, Circle Officer, Baraut, that includes Asara: "Muhakkam lost the post of the village head, so these actions are definitely a way to gain popularity among the community."
But, the issue has now spiralled out of the village's control. On 14 July, in a meeting called by Muhakkam and Mujahid at the village mosque, Yashpal Malik, president of the Akhil Bharatiya Jat Sangrakshan Sangharsh Samiti (ABJSSS), addressed a crowd. "We support the villagers' decision of imposing the bans," he said. People cheered the declaration. Some were even vociferous in their support, including the 20-year-old boy, who had earlier joked about it.
The leaders were scathing of the media, for trying to harm the reputation of the Muslim Jat community. "Whoever takes a stand against these decisions is trying to harm the Jat culture," added Malik.
In an obvious jibe at Union Home Minister P Chidambaram's comments condemning the bans, ABJSSS member Satpal Chowdhary remarked that no "lungi-wearing outsider" had the right to defy measures taken to save the "honour" of women.
The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) also supported the banishment. Jayant Choudhary, RLD MP from Mathura and son of RLD chief and Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh, has said that it was merely a matter of solving a family issue and the panchayat members are right in their stand. But stage-managed by a section of the media in need of TRP ratings, a simple family matter has been made out to be a "national" issue.
Soumik Mukherjee is a Photo Correspondent with Tehelka.
See more at: http://tehelka.com/the-khap-that-wasnt/#sthash.Zsfiag2V.dpuf
What these writeups show is a picture at total variance to the one portrayed by the Media, Times of India, etc etc.
Asara is not a village in the grip of a Taliban state. As one member of the village puts it , we are Muslim, but our ladies do not wear Burkas. We would like our girls to take precautions when they go out.
A month after the so called diktat were supposedly issued, the correspondents found the girls of the village walking around, wearing Jeans, talking on mobiles, not wearing burkahs, doing what girls in villages normally do.
A village community got together, held a Panchayat( I the west it is called a town hall meeting), and discussed their concerns.
One of the concerns was mobiles and youngsters( boys and girls) walking around with mobiles, with ear phones stuck to their ears.
An accident had recently happened, and a boy had been killed by a train, he did not hear coming.
This incident , and the village community concern for the safety of their kids led to guidelines for the use of phones, It was obviously followed more in abstentia, as mobiles were in many kids hands.
The community was also concerned about eve teasing, and molestation of girls in the market.
The rural village areas are unsafe after dark. The police are far away and unable to help. These concerns led them to suggest that women should not go out alone unescorted at night, or to the markets which are kilometers away, and the way to them are is along lonely desolated road, hardly safe for grown men, let alone vulnerable girls.
Most parents all over the world are concerned about their children's use of mobiles, social media, at the expense of their studies and studies. They are concerned about letting their children wander around in unsafe environments , e.g. in what they perceive to be unsafe neighbourhoods, and /or after dark.
One wonders if rural parents do not and should not have such a right?
One anchor on a NDTV debate show- exhorted the affected girls to be more ` majbooth' or strong. One wonders how that would help the girls if an assault took place on them?
It struck one that none of the participants , who were so anti the alleged Panchayat guidelines, had visited the village concerned.
The TV screen shots, were very charged- Honour killing by Khaps, rapes, female foeticide, these were the violent imageries projected, in what was billed as a debate of Khap issues.
The imageries , and sound effects were designed to effect a transference of violence and Talibani type behaviour onto the rural communities and their grass root movements, to equate them, in the public eye, with honour killing, rape, and barbaric behaviour.
Interestingly this as the case of Asara, and the two journalists who set up and stage managed the `Asara Panchayat', is not journalism, but a fraud.
A fraud on the public and the Supreme Court.
How will this affect the Justices view?
What is was, is something the Supreme Court Justices, may wish to ponder over and take some corrective action.
Should the Supreme Court should order a full inquiry and take action against the journalists and their employers.
TV videos, links below
- Part 1 NDTV Khap panchayat decission at asara baghpat bagpat
- ndtv debate on khap panchayat system and asara bagpat
- ndtv debate on Khap Panchayat system
- PART 3 ndtv debate on Khap Panchayat system village asara baghpat
- debate on sahra live with Ch. Yashpal Malik ji on asara khap panchay
There are other videos on the Youtube site, which can be looked at.