The khap panchayat in a village called Madora, near Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, is making using mobile phones in public a punishable offence for women. They will impose a fine of up to Rs 21,000 for offenders.
The village is predominantly occupied by Muslims. The elders constituting the khap opine that mobile phones used by women facilitate contact with men. Banning mobile phones for women will limit this contact, and also curb the instances of eloping planned between men and women, according to the elders.
They insist that girls using phones while walking on the roads leads to negligence, thus spiking crimes against them - a classic trope to victim blame and put the onus for women's safety on the women themselves.
Typically, these khap panchayats exist mostly in Northern India, but also at various other places around the country, as quasi-judicial, regressive bodies that criminalise various modern activities based on age-old customs and traditions, under the pretext of guarding "good old values."
As these khap panchayats are self-proclaimed courts that take the law into their own hands, but aren't really authorised to impose punishments, local statutory bodies often intervene, as in the case of this particular diktat as well. "We have received reports about the khap panchayat ordering the ban on women using mobile phones. Such orders are against the constitution and we will take action," local police chief Arun Kumar Singh told AFP.
The khaps have also imposed fines of up to Rs 2 lakh on people caught slaughtering cows, and of Rs 1.1 lakh on anyone caught smuggling liquor. According to Arun Kumar, the local police authorities are in support of these above measures, but remain opposed to the curbs on the freedom of women.
These policies have been instated by former village pradhan Mohammed Gaffar, in an effort to prove that the Muslim community backs incumbent Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's campaign against cow slaughter.
Khap panchayats are notorious for enforcing their own doctrine in conflicts arising out of marriage, property ownership, and incidents that qualify as social transgressions as per their worldview. In the past, there have been various reports of khaps criminalising women, from wearing jeans, or passing the orders to conduct the 'honour killings' of inter-caste and inter-racial couples.