Love penalty is a strange ‘law’ in Madhya Pradesh’s tribal area where eloping lovers get a sanction for a live-in relationship once the boy’s side has paid the penalty to the girl’s parents.
It is strange, but true. Alirajpur district has over 90% tribals and their strange panchayat law is more popular than the Indian constitution, social activists said .
How the tribal panchayat decides elopement cases. The victims reveal that as soon as the girl’s side reports the matter to the tribal panchayat, the latter decides the penalty, which invariable includes cash and goats. However, some educated tribals say that hefty penalties are used by influential tribal leaders for partying.
Recently, at a village in Jobat block, the panchayat slapped a penalty of Rs 30,000 and two goats on one Tilu’s family. Crime: Tillu, resident of Borkhar area, had run away with Antar Bai, which her parents reported to the panchayat instead of the police.
Tilu was lucky as his penalty was halved from Rs 60,000 and four goats after intervention by a strong tribal leader, Mahesh Patel.
Tilu had to borrow the money and now is paying back in instalments. But, now he can stay with Antar. Both Tilu and Antar Bai are staying in Gujarat as live-in partners. They are working there to repay the loan, said Tilu’s father Dekhu.
Patel said, “We’re left with no option, but to loan the money to the man’s family and settle the matter to avoid a clash.”
In another case, Rattu , 28, resident of Borkhar area, who already has two children from his four- year-old live-in relationship with Urmilla, eloped with another woman (also named Urmilla) six months ago.
The duo returned only after Rattu’s family paid Rs 40,000 and three goats as love penalty to Urmilla’s family. Now Rattu lives with both. He has repaid the “rescue loan” by working in Gujarat for three months.
About 10 years ago, 18-year-old Ramesh of Nanpur town eloped with two years elder Ram Bai. Ramesh’s family paid Rs 50,000 and five goats to Ram Bai’s family. But, paying the loan back wasn’t easy. He had to work as a bus driver in Gujarat to do so.
However, Ramesh’s cousin Manisha Maroo, 19, a BSc second year student, said, “They (tribal leaders) have been slapping penalty on lovebirds just for partying. I will better stay single.”
Social activists Shobhna Omkar said that the police and the district administration should take steps to stop the practice instead of remaining a mute spectator to it.
Alirajpur district collector Shekhar Verma admitted, “There is urgent need for educating tribals in the district to eradicate social evils. We’re focusing on girl education.”
Superintendent of police Kumar Saurabh wasn’t available for his comments.