Here’s a collection of news articles I found on the “Telegraph” (UK) website:
Arranged marriages or nothing in the Indian village that banned love
A world away from the skyscrapers and Bollywood romance of Mumbai, a village in the heart of rural India has banned love.
According to the Press Trust of India, the council in the predominantly Muslim village Asara in Uttar Pradesh state have insisted that women cover their heads in public Photo: ALAMY
5:31PM BST 13 Jul 2012
Police are investigating the decision of the village of Asara, in the north-western state of Uttar Pradesh, to ban “love marriages” as opposed to those that have been arranged by parents. Women under 40 have been ordered not to go outside unaccompanied.
In a slew of draconian measures, the village council or “panchayat” also barred women from using mobile phones and insisted they cover their heads in public, in what has been described in local media as the “Talibanisation” of rural India.
A council member, Sattar Ahmed, said “love marriages” were damaging and a “shame on society”.
The orders have caused outrage in a country that is striving to modernise, but is shackled by conservative social traditions in many areas where women’s rights are non-existent.
The home minister, P. Chidambaram, condemned the orders, saying they had “no place” in a democratic society.
“Police must act against anyone issuing such diktats. If anyone takes action against any young man or woman based on illegal village courts, then they must be arrested,” Chidambaram said at a press conference. Leaders of the panchayat justified the new rules by stating they were intended to safeguard women from “bad elements” in society.
“It is very painful for the parents, especially the girl’s family, because such marriages dent their respectability,” said Sattar Ahmed.
The measures were swiftly condemned by women’s rights groups. Sudha Sunder Raman, the general secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association said: “This notion that women up to the age of 40 need protection and need to be controlled is extremely chauvinistic and undermines all basic norms.”
The head of the National Commission for Women, Mamta Sharma, said the council rulings were “laughable” and unenforceable.
“Panchayats do not enjoy constitutional powers. And if there are no powers, there is no need to follow the orders,” she said. Panchayats are an unelected group of elders, who are seen as the social and moral arbiters of village life.
Although their rulings carry no legal weight, they can be highly influential and have been blamed for numerous abuses, such as sanctioning “honour killings” of women whose actions are deemed to have brought shame on their family.
Last month, a man in western India paraded his daughter’s severed head through his village, after he killed her because he was upset with her way of life and “indecent behaviour”. Ogad Singh beheaded his daughter, Manju Kunwar, before surrendering to authorities. The 20 year-old had been living with her parents in the Rajasthani village of Dungarji, 250 miles from Jaipur, after leaving her husband two years ago. She then apparently eloped with another man.
India last month topped the Thomas Reuters Foundation poll as the worst place, out of the top 19 economies in the world, for a woman to live.
The village rulings come at a time when police in Mumbai have themselves launched a crackdown on the city’s morals.
In recent weeks, police in the city have raided a series of bars and clubs, shutting them down or fining them for being overcrowded. Dozens of women were arrested in the raids, accused of being prostitutes, leading to protest marches across the city.
Indian police officer 'encouraged father to commit honour killing'
A senior Indian police officer has been recorded suggested that the father of a missing girl should murder her in an honour killing.
According to campaigners there are more than 1000 honour killings in India every year, where runaway lovers are later captured and killed by their own relatives for bringing 'shame' on their families. Photo: Alamy
By Dean Nelson, New Delhi
5:28PM BST 10 May 2012
Shaukeen Mohammed, the father of a fourteen year old girl who had been kidnapped by a criminal in Uttar Pradesh two months ago, had sought the help of S. K Mathur, a deputy inspector of police to recover his daughter.
Instead, DIG Mathur suggested his daughter had in fact eloped and said had it been one of his relatives he would have shot her dead.
“I don’t have magical power to recover your daughter. If your daughter has eloped then
you should be ashamed of it. I would have killed my sister if she had eloped or else I would have committed suicide,” Mr Mohammed was told, according to the video footage.
The officer’s comments provoked outraged among women’s rights campaigners but highlighted the wider acceptance of “honour killings” in northern India.
According to campaigners there are more than 1000 honour killings in India every year, where runaway lovers are later captured and killed by their own relatives for bringing "shame" on their families.
This latest controversy follows a series of protests last year in which caste groups demanded the right to stage 'trials' of eloping couples who marry in defiance of their parents and caste traditions. Many of the victims of these killings are cross-caste couples or lovers who defy local customs to marry within their own "gotra" or sub-caste – which is forbidden in some parts of India.
DIG Mathur denied he had supported honour killings and claimed his comments had been taken out of context.
Women's rights campaigners however called for his arrest.
Girja Vyas, former head of the National Commission for Women said she condemned his comments. "There cannot be two opinions about what the senior police official has said – it is wrong and unconstitutional. He must be dealt as per the law. The Police must be sensitised on issues and law relating to women. This should be made part of the police training," she said.