A village sabha of 50 men in West Bengal’s Murshidabad took the law in their hands when they forced a farmer to shave his wife’s head who was accused of having an illicit relationship with another man. “Shalishi Sabha,” the Bengali equivalent of Khap panchayats ordered the sentence after the woman failed to pay a penalty sum of Rs 6,000 earlier.
Police sources said that members of the “sabha” 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 family told the sabha that they couldn’t afford to pay the fine, members of the kangaroo court then forcibly entered her house and said that they would chop the woman’s hair as a punishment. Her husband Mizarul Sheikh protested, following which he was threatened and forced to shave his wife’s head.
According to a 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.