India: A Mother Kills Herself after Caste Discrimination

NEW DELHI: A mother hung herself in India after the council of elders penalized her family for her assumed extra-marital affair with a lower-caste man, said a local police officer on Wednesday.

On Monday, the mother of 4 killed herself as the dozens of villagers congregated outside her house in the central Madhya Pradesh state for a party that the council ordered her family to host as a penalty for the relationship.

The council that composed of the members of the woman’s caste had, last month found her “guilty” of having a relationship with man from the lowest Dalit caste, that was previously known as untouchables, in the India’s deeply rooted social hierarchical system.

As well as hosting the drinking party in the district of Tikamgarh, the 25 year old women was also fined 5,000 Indian rupees & ordered to attend an indigenous temple to atone for her “sins”, said the local police officer, Maduresh Pacharui

The panchayat (the council), had formerly sanctioned a social boycott from the family but later changed the penalty after the 25 year old woman’s family supplicated before the village elders, said Maduresh Pacharui.

“It seems she was depressed with the events & over her alleged affair with her husband’s co-worker, who is a Dalit (a low cast). We are investigating the panchayat’s role,” told Pacharui, the local police officer to AFP.

So far, nobody has been arrested over her death, he said.

Panchayats exercises enormous influence over the rural life, mainly in northern India, where they act as authorities for the millions of poor villagers who don’t have access to a legal recourse.

While they carry no legal weight & are unconstitutional, they still can be highly influential & in past have been blamed for the numerous abuses such as sanctioning of the “honor killings” of couples & raping woman for defying social traditions.

Critics brand these Panchayatas as “kangaroo courts.’’ They have also been known to hand down the public beatings & heavy fines for the perceived crimes.