Patna, Oct 11: Ever since protestors at Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's ongoing Adhikar Yatra showed him black flags, district authorities in the state have been scrupulously keeping all things black out of his public meetings. But no one expected dupattas -- pieces of seamless cloth that go with women's salwar-kurta dress -- to be snatched.
Members of the opposition, activists and intellectuals have now sprung to the defence of hapless women who found themselves divested of their black dupattas during Nitish Kumar's ongoing whirl-wind rights rallies across the state.
Over the past two days, policemen in Nawada district and at other places are said to have been removing the dupattas that young girls and women wore at rallies, if the piece of cloth happened to be black. Those unwilling to let go of their dupattas were simply asked to stay away from the meeting.
"I've never heard of something like this. The removal of a dupatta by force is a crime. It is a violation of human rights," said Kanchan Bala, a woman activist.
Another woman activist, Sharda, wondered how a police force that has an abysmal record in checking the rising crime against women, including incidents of rape, has shown such alacrity in implementing the "ban-black" instructions, reportedly issued by none else than the chief minister.
"This is shameful. Nitish Kumar owes the people, especially the women, an apology," Sharda said.
State president of Bihar's ruling Janata Dal (United) Vashisht Narain Singh said neither the party nor the chief minister had anything to do with the removal of black dupattas. "No such order was passed," he said.
A senior police official too said that the state administration and police headquarters have nothing to do with the incidents, and no instruction pertaining to dupattas was issued.
Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, currently visiting different districts for his Parivartan rally, said: "Nitish Kumar's 'good' governance has been exposed, again. If policemen removed dupattas of girls and women attending his rally, the chief minister must have ordered it. He should explain his fear of black." Lalu Prasad was speaking to reporters in Jamui district, ahead of his public rally Thursday.
Congress leader Premchand Mishra said it was all just too much. "How can policemen remove dupattas? The chief minister must clarify," Mishra said.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) youth leader Gopal Prasad Sharma said he was at a loss to recall such a thing had ever happened. "This is so undemocratic, it is so regressive," he said.
Theatre activist Anish Ankur wondered if it was necessary for the police force to heap humiliation on women, just to keep the chief minister in good spirits.
The move to ban black comes after protestors held up black flags during Nitish Kumar's Adhikar Yatra last week. Contractual teachers (also called para teachers), demanding parity in pay with regular teachers, had taken out a black flag protest at Nitish Kumar's public meetings in various districts.
Last week, Jamui district Superintendent of Police Upendra Prasad Sharma issued an order to ban black clothes. "People wearing black clothes, black shawls or holding black handkerchiefs are not permitted to attend the chief minister's meeting on Oct 8. Those found guilty of violating the order would be booked under Section 107 of CrPC," that order declared.
Section 107 of the Criminal Procedure Code pertains to security for keeping peace in public places.
Police headquarters later issued the Jamui police superintendent a show cause notice for it, and withdrew his order.