A 42-year-old man allegedly committed suicide after failing to withdraw cash to escape social ostracisation by a khap panchayat in eastern Rajasthan’s Karauli district, police said on Thursday.
Police said Hari Mohan Chhipi of Barkheda village, around 180 km from state capital Jaipur, jumped in front of a train on Tuesday, hours after he was allegedly asked by the traditional body of village elders to pay Rs 20,000 to his cousin over a land dispute.
According to the FIR – a copy of which is with HT – the khap panchayat slapped a fine of Rs 51,000 on Chhipi. He paid them Rs 11,000 twice after which the khap took the family’s jewellery when Chhipi promised to pay the remaining amount in a few days.
On Tuesday, he approached the khap to buy more time to pay the fine. But the khap panchayat refused and asked him to pay them Rs 22,000 by the end of Tuesday.
Chhipi even sought a loan from his neighbours in the village but no one had so much money. He then failed to withdraw the amount from a local bank branch, which had run out of cash due to high demand after the government’s decision to withdraw high-value banknotes, said Suresh, Chhipi’s brother, who lodged the FIR.
The suicide will give another handle to opposition parties to attack the government over the demonetisation, which they say has been poorly implemented. The government has faced stinging criticism from the opposition which has linked the death of more than 80 people to the demonetisation.
Police said they have registered a case against 10 members of the khap panchayat on charges of abetment to suicide and extortion.
“The khap threatened to ostracise Chhipi’s family if he failed to pay the amount by the day’s end,” said Ramdev Singh, the station house officer of Surauth police station.
The police officer said the panchayat also threatened to increase the fine if Chhipi failed to pay up by Tuesday.
“Hari’s family refused to accept the body for cremation after the postmortem but later when we assured them of legal action against the accused, they agreed to take it,” the SHO added.
The dispute arose after Chhipi’s childless uncle, Nand Kishore, passed away 2-3 months ago.
Chhipi claimed Nand Kishore had willed a plot of land to his son before dying.
Chhipi’s cousin Rajkumar, however, demanded division of the property – equally between Chhipi and his siblings on one hand, and Rajkumar and his siblings on the other.
The khap had earlier ordered equal distribution of the property between the two and told Chhipi to pay Rajkumar Rs 51,000, half of what Rajkumar spent in getting the property papers sorted, the SHO said.
Local sources said Hari’s family had taken care of Nand Kishore in his last days. And it was probable that he promised his property to Hari’s son but there was no written record of the decision. They also said Hari had taken possession of the land.
Khap panchayats are extra-constitutional bodies of village elders, mostly in certain areas of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, that have been criticised for their regressive diktats.