Pune rural police on Sunday arrested six persons in connection with the alleged social boycott of a family from Kanjarbhat community by the ‘jaat (caste) panchayat’.
In this case, first reported by The Indian Express, a Pune-based woman, Suhani alias Rita Kumbhar (32), and her family belonging to the Kanjarbhat community were allegedly “boycotted” for a period of one year, after her mother Nanda had refused to let the community’s ‘jaat panchayat’ resolve their property dispute.
Following a complaint filed by Rita, a first information report (FIR) was initially lodged as per sections of the Prohibition of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016, at the Bharati Vidyapeeth police station in Pune city on November 20, against seven persons, who included members of the alleged ‘jaat panchayat’.
Later, the case was transferred to Saswad police station of Pune rural police on November 29 as the alleged ‘jaat panchayat’ meeting in which Rita and her family were “socially boycotted”, was held at Garade village, in Purandar taluka, which is in its jurisdiction.
Of the seven accused, police identified six persons as Suresh Binavat, Nandu Rajput, Sampat Binavat, Munna Kachravat, Anand Binavat and Devanand Kumbhar, all residents of Pune city. They were arrested on Sunday and search was on for the seventh accused, Devidas Chavan. “A court has remanded the six accused to police custody for two days for further investigation,” said police inspector Appasaheb Gholap of the Saswad police station.
According to Rita’s husband Vikas, property issues surfaced after her father Manoj died of Covid-19 on August 17 this year. He said, “Some property that belonged to Rita’s father had been rented out. After his death, her mother Nanda started collecting the rent. Her father was also in a relationship with another woman, with whom he had two children… so, there are some property-related issues.”
As per the FIR, some of the “jaat panchayat” members called Nanda in the last two months. They allegedly directed her to be present before a ‘jaat panchayat’ meet to sort out the property issues. But, when Nanda refused, one of the accused, Suresh Binavat, allegedly got angry and verbally abused her.
Then, Rita recorded a video, in which she abused Suresh Binavat and said her mother should not be harassed over property-related matters. Rita circulated this video on WhatsApp groups comprising members of the Kanjarbhat community.
Then, a message called ‘jahir notice’, allegedly issued by Suresh Binavat, was posted on the WhatsApp group of the community, which mentioned that persons and office-bearers from the ‘Bhatu Samaj’ have been called to Raj Lila Mangal Karyaklay in Garade village on November 11 at 2 pm. The ‘notice’ directed Rita and her sister to remain present at the meeting, and tender an apology in front of all ‘Bhatu Samaj’ for abusing him (Suresh). The message also warned of a “strong decision” if they didn’t tender an apology.
According to the FIR, the ‘Bhatu Samaj Panchayat’ meeting was held at Garade village on November 3, where orders to “boycott” Rita and her family for one year were allegedly passed. Also, the “jaat panchayat” allegedly demanded Rs 1 lakh fine, five liquor bottles, five “bokad (male goats)” from Rita’s family as fine and warned of permanent social boycott if they failed to give it. The ‘jaat panchayat’ allegedly also issued a diktat declaring that ‘women have no rights over their ancestral property.” As per the FIR, videos showing the accused issuing these “orders” were reportedly recorded and circulated on WhatsApp groups of the community.
On Saturday, Leader of Opposition in the State Legislative Council and BJP leader Pravin Darekar held a meeting with Abhinav Deshmukh, the superintendent (SP) of Pune rural police, demanding proper investigation into this case.
Meanwhile, Nandini Jadhav of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (ANIS), who is helping the complainant, said, “This is a serious case. Victims have named more persons in their supplementary statement. Police should also investigate these persons.”