Villagers in the eastern Indian state of Bihar have reacted ecstatically to the withdrawal of an official order, which barred them from visiting the court premises in lungi, a type of sarong tied around one'the waist.
Lungi, a traditional wrap-around garment worn from waists to ankles, is very popular among local villagers, especially among Muslims. The dress has become such an integral part of their life that it is the most common scene in countryside to see the villagers going to the markets or attending social functions in lungis.
It was, thus, only too obvious that the villagers reacted this way when the ban on this dress was finally withdrawn but this happened only after they registered angry protests. Let aside the common men, even the advocates opposed the ban on this dress.
It all began earlier this month when a local court in Muslim-dominated Kishanganj district in Bihar issued the ban notice, strictly banning the entry of the legal aid-seeking clients to the court premises in lungis. Although the order was issued due to security reasons, this ban evoked sharp protests from the local populace, which made headlines in the local media.
As such, Kishanganj is the only district among Bihar’s total 38, which is Muslim-dominated with Muslims forming about 68 percent of total population. The notice, thus, was affecting the Muslim population much.
The villagers also questioned why this ban was imposed only in Kishanganj court, not in any other courts located across the state.
The notice issued to two district bar associations of Kishanaganj suggested them to ban their respective clients from coming to the court premises in lungis. It cited no reason behind the lungi ban though.
The move met with strong protests as some people shared their photographs wearing lungis on various social networking sites as a mark of protests while the advocates opposed the order tooth and nail, saying it was just impossible for them to go against the local culture.
“Lungi is the most popular dress of the local Muslims in this part of Bihar. Here even son-in-laws go to their in-laws’ homes in lungis,” said District Advocate Association secretary Om Kumar adding he had requested the court to withdraw the order.
Another lawyer Mohammad Aslamuddin termed the order “bizarre” saying how could they ask the clients not to visit them in their traditional dress. “A person visits the court with his grievance. How can we ask them not to come in lungis?” asked Aslamuddin.
He vehemently opposed the order stating there was no such ban for Indian politicians attending the Parliament in Lungis. “We have seen politicians like Venkaiah Naidu and P Chidambaram attending Parliament in lungi. But, why such ban for my clients only?” he asked.
A well-known scientist from Kishanganj currently a research associate with the University of Cambridge, Mumtaz Naiyer went to the extent of seeking the arrest of the official issuing such notice.
“An FIR should be lodged against the Kishanganj Civil Court Manager for issuing a false circular. There is no dress code mentioned anywhere in the law books of our country for a commoner visiting court premises. Dress code is there for lawyers and judges only. I think a criminal case must be initiated against this person for putting a false circular, which cause much unrest in the society. District administration must take note of this circular and report to the state govt,” Naiyer wrote in his Facebook post.
Eventually the authorities withdrew the order in the weekend. “Though the letters dated 5/11/2018 were advisory in nature, sent by the court manager, Kishanganj Judgeship to you, if not interested, let that order be treated as redundant,” said the District and Sessions Judge, Kishanganj in its order issued in the weekend.
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