01 August, 2021

5-Judge Trench

Caste panchayats have outgrown their function as local dispensers of justice. Today, they are epitomes of cruelty

Jitender Gupta
5-Judge Trench
The verdict is out, but the case doesn't rest. It troubles. It troubles that just a fortnight ago, in this 21st century, a panchayat in Naurangabad village in UP's Meerut district ruled that a young woman, pregnant with the child of her second husband, return to her first husband who had reappeared after five years. This decision because "her first husband, though assumed dead, had never divorced her", and this without so much as consulting the woman concerned.

Married off at just 14 to soldier Mohammed Arif of Mulandi village, Gudiya had barely spent a week with him when Arif was called to duty at the Kargil war. Declared deserter by the army soon after, he was given up for dead as time went by. Even so, it was only after four years that the "widowed" Gudiya's parents, with the community's consent, married her off again, to her cousin Taufiq. Then a prisoner-of-war swap between India and Pakistan saw Arif rise from the dead and return home to a hero's welcome. Gudiya was by now...

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