In a shocking incident in Maharashtra’s Parbhani district, around eight panchas of a caste panchayat allegedly demanded sexual favours from a woman. This happened after her husband refused to pay Rs 6 lakh asked by panchas for ‘settling’ his ‘debt’.
However, the timely intervention by the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), an organisation dedicated to fighting superstition in India, not only led to lifting of the social boycott imposed on the couple, but the panchayat itself was dissolved.
Belonging to ‘Gondhali community’, the couple has been identified as Deepak Bhore and his wife, residents of Selu in Parbhani. The duo had taken a loan of Rs 9 lakh from the panchas of their community some two two years back.
According to the couple, they have repaid Rs 2.50 lakh to panchayat, the caste body demanded Rs 6 lakh to ‘settle the outstanding amount’. They, however refused to pay, and panchas issued the diktat of social boycott on them.
Subhash Ugle, Bhore’s maternal uncle alleged that the panchas forcefully entered their house in Selu, and misbehaved with Deepak’s wife.
They not only misbehaved with her but tied a chappal at the door of the house indicating that Bhores were an outcast. They also took household things with them, Ugle said.
However, Deepak’s wife has leveled serious accusations against the panchas, as she alleged that they demanded sexual favours from her if her husband was unable to pay Rs 6 lakh for ‘settling’ the debt.
When the couple was ostracised, they fled to Nashik. Ugle said that panchayat also warned him and his family members if they provide any help to them. They were also threatened of social boycott if they didn’t obey their diktat.
Ugle contacted the activist Krishna Chandgude of MANS in Nashik and sought his help. The first thing he did was that he convinced the couple to speak up against this shocking incident, and also inform the district administration about the issue.
The activist then made members of Gondhali community understand that the panchayat’s decision was not right in any way. The efforts of Chandgude started to show results, as the community asked the Panchayat to revoke the decision of social boycott, and later announced dissolving of the caste body.
“I talked to the panchas. They have agreed to dissolve the panchayat. The other panchyats should also follow them,” Chandgude said.
He stressed that there is a need for a stringent act against such draconian panchyat system. “As the Gondhali panchayat is going to be scrapped it will come as a reprieve for lakhs of people from the community,” Chandgude added.
However the incident was not reported to the police.
In an another shocking incident, a self-styled social panchayat in Barmer district in Rajasthan had ordered chopping off the nose of a woman for complaining of rape against her father-in-law which led to his arrest.