A notice board on the entry road to Binodpur, a village in the backyard of Rabindranath Tagore’s enlightened Santiniketan, holds the key to the brutal gang rape of a 20-year-old woman on the orders of a tribal kangaroo court earlier this week.
“If you are a Hindu or a Muslim, do not enter this village after 6pm,” the notice boldly proclaims. An identical board has been placed on the second entry road to the village.
Far from development, jobs and education, the tribal villages of Bengal are increasingly becoming a closed society. And therein lies the rub. The young woman had the temerity to have a relationship with a man from another community, hence the punishment.
Even though the notice has been put up by a local club, the residents of Binodpur, a motley collection of about 20 families, say it is a unanimous decision.
“This is for our security and to protect our culture,” said Phulmoni Soren, homemaker and mother of three. “Our women are not safe from outsiders,” added a member of Binodpur Adibasi Sidhu Kanu Club Gaounta Committee.
The administration is aware of the shift — even though few are willing to discuss it.
“We have received intelligence reports that in several tribal villages in Bolpur, Rampurhat and Suri, people have started making their own rules, defying the administration,” said a senior police officer on condition of anonymity.
But little is being done about it. “I have just heard about such a notice from you,” said fishery minister and local legislator Chandranath Singha. “I’ll definitely talk with all concerned so that we can bring these people into mainstream and restore their faith in administration and law.”