Ostracised widow back in social fold
RAMSUKHI OF village Kocharia can finally heave a sigh of relief. Her social isolation formally ended on Thursday with the villagers promising publicly to help the hapless old widow get back her land.
Fed up with the constant harassment by the upper caste villagers, Ramsukhi had gone to the bizarre extent of even seeking permission from the authorities to commit suicide as her repeated complaints had failed to elicit any response from the powers that be.
At a public hearing (Majma-i-am) today, attended by Assembly deputy chairman Devendra Singh, MLA Hafiz Mohammed and other senior district officials, Ramsukhi was accepted back into the village fold.
Later, District Collector C P Vyas and the Assembly Deputy Chairman surveyed Ramsukhi's land and found that five roads, a temple and a crematorium had been constructed on it. The rocky land, unfit for cultivation, had also been illegally occupied by people of the village.
The Deputy Chairman first heard Ramsukhi's, and then sarpanch Shankar Lal Kumawat's version of the whole story.
Thereafter, the District Collector suggested that either the encroachment on Ramsukhi's land be removed through legal action or some other piece of land be granted to the old woman as compensation.
The sarpanch, on behalf of the whole village, said that former sarpanch Shiv Singh Shaktawat would also be given the right to speak to Ramsukhi on the kind of action she desired, promising that the widow's decision would be honoured.
Shaktawat also asked for a five-day time-period during which, an effort would be made to try and compensate Ramsukhi by granting her agricultural land in the village.
If any problem on this count recurred, it would be dealt with according to the provisions of the law, the DC warned.
Widow ostracised for a piece of land
The small piece of land that Ramsukhi's husband left her after his death has become the bane of her life. Her nightmare began when some influential people in her village asked her to sell her land to them and Ramsukhi refused to sell as the land is the sole means for her survival.
Enraged by her decision, the Sarpanch of Kacharia village situated in Bhilwara district, thought of another way of getting her land. He decided to get a tubewell sunk on Ramsukhi's land on the panchayat's expense. Ramsukhi objected to this and got a stay order from the local court preventing the panchayat from sinking a tubewell on her land.
This action enraged the Sarpanch so much that a meeting was called in the village on April 7 and it was decided that Ramsukhi would be boycotted for her 'selfish' act. Anyone found defying the dictat would be fined Rs 5000.
Because of this all shopkeepers of the village have refused to sell any provisions to the hapless woman and Bhanwar Lal a shopkeeper who dared to defy the dictat had to face the wrath of the villagers the next day.
What is worse is that the villagers under the leadership of the sarpanch came to Bhilwara and met the District Collector Mr CP Vyas. They handed over a memorandum to him threatening that if Ramsukhi refused to let the villagers use her land they would boycott her. However, the administration did not take any action against the villagers.
Ramsukhi called on the Home Minister Gulab Singh Sakhawat on April 13 when he visited Bhilwara and submitted a memorandum to him, but it did not help.
Last week some reporters visited the village, but no one was ready to speak to the media. Gulab, a student of fifth standard in Kacharia village, also refused to speak journalist saying the villagers could impose a fine on him.
However when reports about Ramsukhi's plight appeared in the media the District Collector and SP found some time to visit the village on Thursday.
After returning from the village, Mr Vyas told The Pioneer that a compromise had been brokered between the villagers and Ramsukhi.
It seems that another piece of land has been offered to Ramsukhi in place of her land which is situated near a pond and is thus considered prime land.
But when officials are asked why was no action taken against the villagers for ostracising a widow, they have no answer.
The Superintendent of Police Mr Harish Bhagat, who also visited the village, refused to come on line. Though, Ramsukhi had filed an application with the police against the sarpanch no action was taken by the police.
It was only when the media took up the case then the police tried to bring about a settlement.
This cruel practice of ostracising someone is not new in the villages of Rajasthan. There are several instances of boycotting a person by the Jati panchayats, who running it own system.