A mother of four committed suicide on Monday night after a caste panchayat at a Madhya Pradesh village issued a diktat aimed at punishing her for allegedly having extra-marital relations with a Dalit man.
The body of the woman, 36-year-old Laxmi Pal (name changed to protect identity), was found hanging from a ceiling fan at her residence in Bajarua Khari village, Tikamgarh district. She reportedly took the extreme step while her husband, Rakesh, was holding a liquor party outside the house at the behest of the caste panchayat.
Village elders from the caste panchayat instructed Laxmi and her family to perform several tasks — including paying a fine of Rs 5,000, bathing in the Ganga river, and holding a liquor party for around 30 residents of the village — to atone for her ‘sin’. Besides this, Laxmi was also told to roll all the way to the Kundeshwar Shiva temple, located 12 km from the village, to obtain forgiveness.
Sources said it all began when a few villagers accused Laxmi of entering into an illicit relationship with Rakesh’s co-worker, a Dalit youth from another village in the district. A fortnight ago, she and her family were not invited to a wedding held at the house of another villager, Dhaniram Pal, because they believed she was “tainted”. Affronted, the family raised the matter before elders of the Pal community, and a meeting of the caste panchayat was conducted on Monday.
Laxmi’s nephew Santosh and brother-in-law Manu said that she defended herself before the community elders with folded hands at the meeting, but they preferred to believe what her detractors had to say. Some of the panchayat members even advocated “stripping her half-naked”, but were overruled by the others, her relatives alleged. Left with no option, Rakesh paid Rs 3,000 of the fine and began making preparations for the party.
Tikamgarh Dehat police station assistant sub inspector Bhagwat Singh Rathore said the humiliation arising out of not being invited to the marriage and the subsequent punishment meted out to her by the caste panchayat was the reason for Laxmi taking the extreme step.
“A case has been lodged under Section 174 of the CrPc. We’re waiting for the deceased woman’s husband to narrate the matter to the police, after which a case of abetment of suicide will be lodged against Dhaniram and the caste panchayat members,” Rathore told Hindustan Times over the phone on Tuesday.