New Delhi: A village in Uttar Pradesh has announced a fine of Rs 21,000 for women seen talking on the mobile phone in public - which, astonishingly, has been listed as a "crime" along with drinking, gambling and cow slaughter.
The new rule was announced by a Panchayat or village council on Tuesday in Madora, a predominantly Muslim village 30 km from Mathura. Fines range from Rs 11,000 to 2 lakh for various "misdemeanors".
A member of the Panchayat, Ghaffar Khan, offers justification that many would describe as outrageous. "Most of the women that we have here are uneducated. Why would they need a phone?"
He added, "We haven't really banned women from using cellphones. But whatever is done, should be done according to our tradition."
According to the police, people at this village in Mathura believe such a ban will restrict the girls' interaction with men. The use of mobile phones by girls has been blamed for affairs and elopements.
"Some of the villagers wanted to deal with some wrongdoings themselves so we allowed them to take steps to ensure there are no crimes," senior police officer Arun Kumar Singh said.
"We support their measures against illegal activities but if there is anything that is against the freedom of women, then we will look into it. Such orders are against the constitution and we will take action," he added.
The police officer described the diktat as one handed by a khap panchayat or a self-proclaimed court that believes it is its duty to uphold socially conservative traditions and check modern, influences.
Three years ago, a village in Muzaffarnagar banned women from wearing jeans or using mobile phones.