Six villages of Mahendragarh district in Haryana banned girls from attending a higher secondary school in a nearby village after an eve-teasing incident.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court, acting on a petition, issued notice to the Senior Superintendent of Police to give a status report. The matter relates to Bairawas village, where on May 6, a 17-year-old girl of neighbouring Nihalawas village was teased by three boys. Panchayats of six villages, Palh, Paal, Gadania, Koksi, Kherki and Nihalawas, immediately called a meeting to make the people of Bairawas give an undertaking that they would take action against any youth harassing girls attending school there.

Bairawas refused to do so and one influential person reportedly prevented the police from arresting the offending boys. Eventually only one was arrested and he has been since remanded in judicial custody.

Navkiran Singh of Lawyers for Human Rights India (LHRI) in a petition in the High Court said: “The problem is the anti-women mindset of the villagers, who used this incident as an excuse to prevent the girls from being educated. With growing assertion of girls in Haryana, the patriarchal systems and customs are being challenged and this is an attempt to prevent their emancipation.” The senior secondary school in Bairawas caters for several villages in the vicinity.

Zile Singh, sarpanch of Nihalawas, said: “The security of girls is a serious issue because they have to walk two or three km on lonely paths while attending school. And, instead of doing something to check the problem of eve-teasing, the school principal and teachers have been playing politics. The panchayat of Bairawas has also behaved irresponsibly in not taking its boys to task.”

However, after the district administration intervened, a meeting was called on Monday at the school. The Bairawas panchayat agreed to check harassment of the girls. Mr. Zile Singh told The Hindu that they have called another mahapanchyat on Sunday to take stock of the situation and would form a committee comprising members of the six affected villages to follow up on the issue. Around 50 per cent of the girls attended school on Tuesday, but the matter is still far from being resolved. Independent observers in Mahendragarh said that following the Chief Minister’s programme on Sunday in the area, the district administration began to put pressure on the villagers to work out a solution. One of them said: “With elections imminent there was a distinct effort to defuse the situation but the root cause persists. Sexual crimes against women are increasing and the government has so far been able to do very little to check them. Most often the perpetrators are politically connected persons.”