Sunday, March 19, 2017

Woman sarpanch alleges caste bias and harassment by upper castes

Times of India: Dashdeep Saxena: Bhopal: Sunday, March 19, 2017.
Madhya Pradeshgovernment's effort to ensure equality and empower women through increased representations in panchayat and civic bodies have run into a caste battle. Elected women representatives from tribal and lower castes have often alleged caste slur and harassment.
Two years after being elected as sarpanch of Mandi Bamora village, about 150 kms from the state capital, Munni Bai, a tribal is regretting her decision to contest and get elected. Her two-year journey as sarpanch has been fraught with memories of abuse and ill-treatment which have made her working not only difficult but impossible. And, the reason for her ignominy is her caste.
The panchayat has 20 members, including 10 women, but her ordeal has no end. "I contested the elections to the post of sarpanch after seat was reserved for a woman," she said, stating she had a lot of dream for village development when she took over.
She said, hatred for a tribal woman had come to fore the day she walked in into the office. "I took charge in June 2015 but was shocked to see the deputy sarpanch and a former sarpanch smash my chair in front of my eyes to humiliate me for being tribal," said Munni Bai.
She accused the upper caste members of the panchayat hurled abuses and made slurs. "They call me a Gondni (member of Gond tribe), abused me and have even threatened to kill me", she told police in an FIR lodged by her.
Police booked deputy sarpanch Virendra Raghuvanshi and Sahabraj Yadav among others under Sections 294 (abuse) and 506 (threat to kill) of the IPC and Scheduled caste and scheduled tribe (prevention of atrocities ) Act .
An FIR lodged with police and complaint with the DGP have also not yielded any result.
"But nothing seems to be changing. No action was initiated against them after the FIR was lodged on January 14 this year", she told TOI.
Denying the charges Raghuvanshi said he has stopped visiting the panchayat office because of false allegations and charges levelled against him. "I have not visited the office for the past 18 months. The sarpanch is 60-year old uneducated woman who can just manage to make a signature in Hindi."