When her husband ran off with another man’s wife, a Rajasthan khap panchayat gave 25-year-old Mamta Bai two options: either live with the man as his spouse, or pay him Rs 3 lakh as compensation.
According to police, Notara Bhopat village resident Rajendra Meghwal filed an FIR about 20 days ago against neighbour Kalulal Meghwal for fleeing with his wife and two children.
Last week, Kalulal’s wife Mamta complained to police that Rajendra approached a caste panchayat on Friday and requested it to allow him to keep her, or ensure he received monetary damages.
Khap panchayats that act as extrajudicial bodies have come under growing national scrutiny after being accused of trying to reinforce conservative attitudes toward caste and morality, perpetuating a patriarchal order.
They have been blamed for the spread of so-called honour killings, ordering bans on women wearing tight clothing and trying to prohibit the use of mobile phones by people in college or younger.
Mamta told police that the khap ruled in Rajendra’s favour but her family of daily-wage labourers cannot pay the large amount demanded.
“We have recorded her statement where she has said that she heard about such a panchayat and the decision. She did not attend the proceedings,” said Sanjay Kumar, station house officer at the local police station. “We are also searching for Rajendra’s wife and Kalulal. Action would be taken against the khap also after the woman’s complaint has been verified.”
The officer said Mamta has been promised protection and police will get Rajendra’s testimony.