A VILLAGE “sabha” of about 50 men in West Bengal’s Murshidabad forced a farmer to shave the head of his wife, who was accused of having an illicit relationship with another man, after the woman and her family failed to pay a “penalty” of Rs 6,000.
Police sources said that members of the “salisha sabha”— the local version of a khap panchayat — allegedly dragged Mariam Bibi, 30, outside her house and made the village watch the “punishment” on Tuesday night at Chandpur in Naoda. The incident has led to rising tension in the village, said sources.
“We have made four arrests in the case. Apart from the three who were named in the complaint, we have arrested one more person as per our initial investigation,” said Mukesh Kumar, SP, Murshidabad. The officer declined to identify those arrested or provide details of the charges under which they were held.
“When the woman’s family members expressed their inability to pay the fine due to their poor financial condition, some members of the sabha forcibly entered her house. They said that they would chop the woman’s hair instead as punishment. When her husband Mizarul Sheikh protested, he was assaulted, threatened and forced to shave his wife’s head,” said a resident, on condition of anonymity.
Police sources said that the men also threatened the woman and her family with forcible eviction and a boycott if they filed a complaint over the incident.
According to the resident, the woman — married for 14 years was suspected of allegedly having an affair with a man from a nearby village and “ran away on October 2 with her lover” to Durgapur, taking her daughter and leaving behind two sons in their teens.
On October 9, the resident said, the woman returned after the man she had left with refused to formalise the relationship. “She told her husband everything and he took her back,” he said.
Residents said that the “sabha” was convened a few hours after the woman’s return. “After much discussion during which the men commented on the woman’s behaviour, from what she wore to how she carried herself, they decided that she was guilty. The verdict was that a fine of Rs 6,000 must be deposited as penalty for her actions that brought disrepute to the village,” said another resident.