In the aftermath of the Delhi gang-rape, a panchayat in Bihar has banned mobile phones in schools and mandated traditional uniforms. Village residents said they felt the need for measures to prevent such incidents happening in rural areas.

The resolution, passed by the Matpa panchayat in Aurangabad district on December 30, said students from Standards VI to XII would not be allowed to carry mobile phones and they would have to wear traditional dresses, like salwar kameez, instead of western outfits like jeans and T-shirts.

“It was the unanimous demand of all village members,” Omkar Nath Singh, husband of mukhiya (village head) Sushma Singh, told The Hindu on the phone. (Ms. Singh was not available for comment.)

Mr. Singh said the rule was applicable to boys and girls. Panchayat secretary Anil Kumar Singh said: “Why would we want mobiles for boys? Girls should not carry mobiles and wear jeans. This was the demand of the people…”

“Inappropriate dress,” Mr. Singh said, “vitiates the social environment. We want to send a message to the government of India that we should stay within the limits of Bharat ki sabhyata [Indian culture]. The government should consider whether the decision was right or wrong.”

He said the government was giving grants for school uniform. “The girls would wear anything. They would go to school in the same dress they wore at home.”

After the arrest of Akshay Thakur, one of the six accused in the Delhi gang rape case, from a neighbouring village, Matpa has been worried about the safety of its young women and children. “We want to be cautious… This is not Delhi or Bombay,” Mr. Singh said.

“The former President, Pratibha Patil, did not let the anchal [part of the sari covering the head] slip from her head. Then why are our sons and daughters wearing T-shirts,” asked Kailash Mishra, a resident. “Our children are wearing bhadkau [provocative] dress. We met the village head and told her to stop this. If the dress code is not implemented in rural areas, such incidents will definitely happen. It’s not like we are pressuring women. This is the need of the hour.”

AIDWA differs

Rampari of the All-India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), however, opposed the move. “This is the first time such a decision has been taken in Bihar. This is wrong. What will it achieve? Dalit and Adivasi women are dressed traditionally, but they are also being raped.”

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