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Judicial CP - January 2006

Corpun file 17424

The Statesman, Calcutta, 24 January 2006

Ideology no bar to cane a woman in Murshidabad

By Asim Pramanik
in Behrampore

Jan. 23. — A woman's tale of suffering gets published in The Statesman and right on the day of publication, an MLA orders that she be caned publicly and a BDO claps in pleasure as "the right penalty" is meted out to her. And the powerful duo were supported by religious leaders and village chieftains — cutting across the political divide —with both Congress and Left Front leaders on the same pedestal to deliver this brand of medieval justice. The woman was finally, after the caning, allowed to continue with her normal life as "her sin was diluted by the battering".

All this happened right in this "progressive" state and at a place barely two kilometres from Behrampore.

Doli Bibi, mother of three, from Gakundi village of Rajdharpara in Behrampore, went on a trip to Rajasthan with her brother. Back home, she had to face a social boycott as the villagers were under the impression that she had an illicit relation with the "so-called brother". Village chieftains held a meeting over "her trip with her paramour" and ostracised her family for three weeks.

On last Saturday, a majlis of Gakundi village development committee delivered a verdict on the issue "to settle the matter for good". RSP leader Mr Sasthipada Mondal presided over the meeting while Congress-backed Independent MLA of Hariharpara, Mr Niyamat Sheikh, pronounced the "verdict" of caning. And the BDO, Behrampore, Mr Nimai Chandra Haldar, "congratulated the judge for delivering the exemplary punishment".

The majlis handed over a bunch of sticks to Doli's father and asked him to beat up his daughter in the presence of villagers. It was, definitely, more important to complete her humiliation before the public than to inflict any physical harm. She returned home shuddering that chilly winter evening, helpless and hapless as no one dared to challenge the verdict of the powers that be.

When contacted, the MLA, Mr Sheikh, sounded defiant. "Her conduct was detrimental to the honour of her community. She was put to the minimum penalty," the MLA argued. He went on: "According to Muslim personal law, there are both hard and light penalties for such fallen woman. ‘Durra' or caning is approved by Shariat." Mr Sheikh is also the president of the village development committee.

BDO Mr Haldar was more "supportive". "We need such justice. This is necessary for the progress of society," said the officer. He did sound honest. After all that was what, perhaps, he felt as the right kind of justice deep inside his heart!

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