A group of village elders in central India have been arrested after blaming a teenage girl for her own kidnapping because she was "too attractive", and then shaving her head in public.

Thirteen of the 16 elders in the town of Chikhla, Madhya Pradesh, have been detained by police investigating allegations of assault against the girl.

During a rudimentary hearing in the centre of the town, the elders ordered the girl's head to be shaved in front of a large crowd to make her "less of a temptation" to potential kidnappers.

The young girl, who had been kidnapped by her own uncle, reportedly protested vehemently during the hearing, pointing out that her kidnapper was entirely to blame.

However the village elders ignored her pleas and ordered her hair to be cut in full view of the crowd, with several men directing insults at the girl during the ceremony.

The victim's 53-year-old kidnapper, who is married with two children, was forced to wear a garland of shoes and a 'grinding stone' for kidnapping his niece. However, unlike his victim, he did not suffer physically.

The elders later told police officials they felt the entire process was "fair".

Teenage Girl's Head Shaved as Punishment
Teenage Girl's Head Shaved as Punishment (Representative Image) Image Credit: Flickr/mil8

Police say investigations were launched only after complaints from the girl's parents.

"We are investigating an alleged assault. A number of people have been arrested and we are still tracking others down. We are treating this allegation of assault very seriously and will then decide what action to take," a police spokesman explained.

Meanwhile, other villagers have decried police action, claiming the punishment is in accordance with local tradition. Protests were carried out on Tuesday, in front of the police superintendent's office.

Village justice, dispensed by Panchayats (elected local bodies), remains popular in many of the interior regions of India and, in some cases, their verdicts and sentences can even be legally binding.