March 15th, 2016
Source: The Hindu
Maharashtra is in the process of making history in India by proposing a law against social boycott by caste panchayats. These panchayats, consisting of caste-specific juries of elders, have often come under the scanner for the brutality of punishments levied upon offenders and the illogical manner in which citizens are pronounced guilty. The Maharashtra Prohibition of Social Boycott Act, which has been approved by the State Cabinet recently, has definitely been a great move towards bringing order into the communities living in smaller villages of Maharashtra. Despite the progress with respect to abolition of social boycott, various unfortunate atrocities committed by the Jaat panchayats question their existence itself.
Raped By Father And Then Panchayat Beats Her
In a recent incident that took place in the Pachwad village of Satara district in Maharashtra, a minor girl was beaten up for not resisting rape. The girl who belonged to the Gopal community, a nomadic tribe, was raped by her father for over four months. Her mother had passed away a year ago and since she lived with her father. The locals found out about the continuous sexual harassment after the girl became pregnant. When the caste panchayat took notice of this incident, a meeting was called by the panchayat on the 3rd of March.
Along with the father, the daughter was also punished in the panchayat meeting for not telling anybody about the rape. They were both tied up and beaten with a stick. Apart from that, a fine of Rs.5000 and Rs.3000 was charged on the man and the girl respectively along with the standard boycott. It is extremely disturbing that a minor who could not open up about the injustice being done to her owing to the fear of society’s acceptance was ultimately punished by this society.
Will it be ever easier for girls to stand up against sexual abuse now that a panchayat has beaten a girl on discovering the truth?
How different is the mentality from the people who stone women in Taliban?
Thankfully a local RTI activist, Sachin Bhise, who was in the Gopal Wasti region looking for labourers to work on his farm, watched the cruel proceedings of the panchayat while recording it on his phone. He also lodged an FIR against those who initiated the punishment. “Ironically, the incident occurred a stone’s throw from the Pune-Satara National Highway and in full public glare. It illustrates the stranglehold of the caste panchayats across the State,” Mr.Dabholkar of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS) told The Hindu.
Not Following The Law
A three member team from the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) said that the pregnant minor girl was in dire need of sustained care. Poorvi Kulkarni, who was part of the team, was quoted by The Hindu saying “Women of the community refused to even admit that such an incident had taken place.” The victim is living with her brothers and is currently in search of means for her livelihood. Although the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act of 2012 mandates the appointment of a counsellor for the victim’s psychological treatment, Shenik Mutha, a law student and MKSS volunteer, has said that there has been no information of such an aid being rendered in the on-going case. Mr.Dabholkar said that MANS had demanded that the Prohibition of Social Boycott Bill must include a complete ban on caste panchayats.
Regulation of caste panchayats is extremely essential to uphold the rights of the poor villagers. These panchayats hold immense power over their communities in small villages where power is often misused according to the whims of the panchayat members.
The Logical Indian hopes that the victim receives justice and her father along with the culprits behind the panchayat events of Thursday are punished appropriately.