First it was the chowmein, then free interactions between men and women. Now, it’s the humble scarf. Self-styled khap panchayats comprising ‘progressive’ Marathas have banned girls in Dhule and Jalgaon districts as well as parts of Nashik district from wearing scarves. Their reasoning: A scarf used as a veil gives a girl the freedom to elope and get married without running the risk of getting caught, who may thereafter be pushed into the flesh trade.
Attempting to join the dots, Sanjay Patil, president of the social reform committee, Amalner in Jalgaon, claims that instances of ‘love marriages’ in northern Maharashtra have become more prominent among couples who had run away under the comfort of a veil. “We have no problem with adults marrying each other. But, here, teenage girls, mostly in classes X and XII, were tempted by the prospect of a marriage and were pushed into the flesh trade later. It was only then that such girls realised that they had been lured with false promises.”
Vikrant Patil, senior Nationalist Congress Party leader, argues that in the absence of a scarf, “it is easy to keep a vigil or identify the girls/women.” He claims that the proscription has the backing of several parents. “We are getting a huge response [to the ban]. We want to protect the cultural and social fabric. So, we have put up posters and banners urging girls to shun the scarf.” The posters are displayed on state buses as well as at crowded areas, schools and colleges. Sources claim that in the last six months, several lodges in the Jalgaon district, have turned into prostitution dens.
Washing his hands of the issue, police inspector RS Patil from Amalner says the police department has nothing to do with the ban.
anjeet Shinde, a social activist from Amalner, can see nothing more than patriarchal undertones in the ban. He warns that this will turn back the clock in a progressive and modern Maharashtra.