Laws exist in Madhya Pradesh, but 16th century social customs still prevail in some villages of the state.In a classic case, a 30-year-old farmer has been forced to stay in an open field for 45 days to atone for accidentally killing a cow last week. This happened in Mahodia village of Sehore district, just 30 kilometres away from the state capital.
Poor farmer Jitendra Dhangar knows that that atonement is too harsh but he can’t stand against the community members and their retrograde customs.
He will have to stay with just the basic necessities with him, like a cot and a water container, during the atonement period. He can’t contact anybody during the period, as per the customs.
But, what is giving him sleepless nights is that he would have to organise a community feast once the atonement is over after a bath in a holy river, like Ganga or Narmada. He said he could hardly afford the money for the feast and the trip to the city of a holy river. As per the customs, if he doesn’t fulfil the conditions, he wouldn’t be allowed back into the village.
Dhangar broke into tears and said, “I had hit a cow with a stick just to shoo her away from my field. But, she died. Now I have to stay away from home and family for 45 days.”
Gautam Shah, a social activist working in the district, said that people in some districts were being forced to abide by such customs. “It is difficult for them to break the long-followed practices. Intense awareness drives are necessary to combat such issues,” he said. District collector Sudam Khade pleaded ignorance about the issue but assured a legal action if a law was broken in the garb of social customs.