Rahees Ram Bisarha had to spend a lot extra on his younger brother's marriage solemnised recently, simply because he could not get the ceremony conducted from his ancestral home in village Bisarha in Malthaun block.
It was not that Bisarha had any space crunch or other reservations about the marriage being held at his home, but he was forced to shift base to another village because 'Parag' has been imposed on his village.
And when `Parag' is imposed, no one in the village could conduct any auspicious ceremony, especially marriages in the village.
In the form of `Parag', an evil social custom still prevalent in various pockets of Bundelkhand, the local communities are running a parallel justice dispensation system. Despite some opposition by members of younger generation, it is continuing to thrive, putting several families of the affected villages in serious financial quandary.
Under the custom, a ban is first imposed on a family, a member of which might be accused of either murder or cow killing. While the usual legal process against the accused continues, the elders (traditional panchs) of the village and nearby villages gather to decide upon a parallel punishment for the family of the accused.
The family is asked to conduct a `Tulsi-vivah' (a ritualistic marriage of Tulsi plant), take a dip in the Ganges or most commonly hold a community feast for the entire village. If the family fails to comply with the decision, the Parag is extended to the entire village and marriage ceremonies are banned until the accused's family relents. This ban might continue for years.
For example in village Laloi in Malthaun, the ban was imposed after a villager murdered a woman in 2011 and was lifted only recently, when the family performed a 'Tulsi-vivah'. The custom is prevalent in nearby villages Roda, Asoli and Devraji too.
The blocks that are mainly affected by the evil custom include Khurai and Banda apart from Malthaun.
A local social worker Rajesh Tiwari, while talking to HT, accepted that the custom was still quite prevalent. "We are making efforts to create awareness against it," he said.
Kaushal Kishore Pathak, a local priest, said that such tradition existed, but the ban was mainly imposed on the family of the accused person and not on the entire village. Also the prevalence was decreasing, he said.
Sub-divisional officer of Khurai, Kamal Solanki, said that he has not received any formal complaint about the custom, but since he was being informed now, he would inquire into the matter and initiate appropriate action.