The diktat issued by the panchayats of Bagpat in Uttar Pradesh -- banning love marriages, use of mobile phones and entry of women under 40 in markets -- has been found bizarre by many.
Other than the residents of what is better known as Uttar Pradesh's "wild west", where the law of the land more often than not gets superseded by local jungle laws, none seem to approve of the arbitrary 'Taliban-like' diktats.
Be it the chairperson of the National Commission of Women Mamta Sharma or her predecessor Girija Vyas or several other women activists in different corners of the country, every one has condemned and flayed the order, supposedly issued after unanimous approval by as many as 31 local caste panchayats.
But where is Ajit Singh, the umpteentime Member of Lok Sabha from Bagpat, the traditional political bastion of his father and powerful farmer leader Charan Singh? Both Ajit Singh, India's Civil Aviation Minister and his MP son Jayant Chaudhari have chosen to maintain studied silence on all important issues.
All effort to get across to the Union civil aviation minister proved futile. His son's mobile remained "unreachable" for most part of the day. Significantly, none of their party leaders were willing to speak on the issue.
"We are not aware of anything like that, so no comments," was the curt retort by an Ajit aide who picked up the phone.
Insiders, however, maintained, "It is best for Chaudhary sahib (Ajit Singh) to keep away from this controversy; after all this is a conflict between tradition and modernity and ideally the local leader should stick with traditional values which disallow young women to venture out for shopping."
According to him, "There is nothing wrong about the panchayat's order."
"This will only prevent incidents of honour killing. In the absence of close interaction with members of the opposite sex the possibility of love marriages is bound to get reduced," he said.
It is felt that both Ajit Singh and his son Jayant have discreetly kept themselves away from this controversy. "Any observation on this issue was bound to affect the Rashtriya Lok Dal vote bank and Ajit Singh cannot afford to risk that," quipped a RLD activist, who preferred not being named.
Meanwhile, the issue has generated much heat in and around Bagpat, where locals compelled the police and the administration to release two members of the 'panchayat' who were earlier taken into custody for imposing their own law. "We handpicked two prominent leaders of the panchayat, but eventually we had no option but to let them off because local farmers blocked the Saharanpur highway and created a ruckus," said a local police officer.
The panchayat in Asara village in Ramala area also ruled that women must not be seen outside their homes without their head covered. The diktats were issued during a meeting of the panchayat held on Wednesday.
Banning love marriages, the panchayat ruled that anyone indulging in love marriage would not be allowed to live in the village.
What is shocking is that far from initiating some action, the Uttar Pradesh State Women Commission has sought a report from Baghpat district magistrate.