Lucknow: Playing down the controversy over diktats issued by a village panchayat in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh Minister Mohd Azam Khan today that people have freedom to express their views but the government will act in case there is any violation of law.

“Anyone can say anything…. We have freedom of speech and how can you prevent from them from this, but if any force is used or it comes in the way of the law of the land then for that there is the government and there is law,” the senior leader told reporters in a reply to a question regarding Taliban-style diktats by Asara panchayat.

The panchayat has banned love marriages and barred women below 40 from going out for shopping and using mobile phones outside their homes

Azam, however, said that it may be the opinion of the local people, but not a diktat.

“I don’t know how much you know about the meaning of farmaan (diktat)… If people sitting in common village say something is not a diktat,” he added.

The minister, who hold the urban development portfolio, said that it was like “if a bearded person says something, people term it as fatwa.

“It is not a fatwa. It has to be looked into what opinion formed in that village, what is its background and under what situation,” he said.

Azam said that it is an independent country where people have right to take independent decision about their lives provided they do not clash with the law or cross the legal line.

“It should not be such a thing which creates huge controversy. From my point of view, it cannot be a diktat.. this could be an opinion and it is not necessary for all people follow it,” he said.

“Government cannot prohibit someone on forming an opinion whether a person should keep a mobile or not. People of a village sat together and what opinion they formed is their internal matter,” he said.

“Anyone can say anything. In the past it was said that whosoever will bring Azam’s head would be called the biggest Ram bhakt, what law was applicable on that. People say a lot of things…We have freedom of speech,” he said.