General - India's Panchayat (Village Council) Rulings | Sikh Philosophy Network
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General India's Panchayat (Village Council) Rulings

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General India's Panchayat (Village Council) Rulings

Ishna

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A Panchayat is a council formed of (usually male) elders in rural villages in India. These groups often self-govern their areas of influence outside of India's official legal system.

A few days ago, a story hit the news with Amnesty International working on information obtained from the Supreme Court where one of two sisters allegedly sentenced by their local panchayat in the village of Sankrund in Uttar Pradesh to be gang-raped as punishment for their brother allegedly eloping with a higher caste woman.

The village is denying that this was the sentence imposed, but I have my doubts when one of the elders is quoted as saying, "You people in the city may inter-marry, it's your custom. Not here, not in our village. We have our customs and our traditions and we will preserve them, at any cost."

At any cost.

In mid January 2014, this kind of sentence wasn't just imposed by a panchayat, it was carried out.

The attack on Tuesday took place in a remote village in West Bengal state where the unmarried woman from the Santhal tribal group was suspected of a relationship with a Muslim man from a neighbouring village.

The elders, who comprise the informal village council, initially imposed a fine of 25,000 rupees ($A453) on her family, but they were unable to pay, district police superintendent C. Sudhakar told AFP.

"The girl was gang-raped for having an affair with a youth of another community and failing to pay the fine which was imposed by the village council," he said.

"All 13 men, including the chief of the village council, who were named in the complaint before the police, were arrested."
And if I spend longer Googling, I'm sure I can find more examples of questionable rulings handed down.

What are the circumstances around this sort of thing, the history in India? What necessitates the panchayat to replace the legislated law?

So, what is being done, or what can be done, to change these situations?

Will the problem sort itself out in another 50 years as the generations change?

What can Sikhs do as a community in India about this kind of thing, and what can Sikhs in the diaspora do to help?
 

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