Woman takes same caste sarpanch to SC panel

I.P. SINGH

JAGPALPUR (PHAGWARA), JULY 15: A woman panchayat member of Jagpalpur village has approached the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes with a complaint of harassment against the village sarpanch, who, incidentally, is a member of her own caste. The director of the Punjab unit of the Commission has since sought the Kapurthala SSP's opinion on the matter and proof of action taken.

In perhaps the only positive fallout of the episode, the alleged harassment reportedly prompted the Jat Sikh community to come to the woman's aid and allow her the use of their gurdwara.

In her complaint, Parkash, a member of a Scheduled Caste, alleged that on October 8, 1999, sarpanch Kashmira Singh demolished her house, which was built on land granted by the panchayat in the early seventies. On June 16, the sarpanch used foul language with her in the presence of panchayat members and police officials and also got her family members implicated in false cases.

Parkash also alleged that during the wedding of her brother-in-law's daughter on June 9, the family was not allowed the use of common utensils from the gurdwaras of the community and was even denied access to the gurdwara they normally frequented, putting them in a spot.

On seeing their predicament, the Jat Sikhs of the village came to their rescue and asked them to perform the wedding rites at their Singh Sabha Gurdwara, she said.

Though that problem was taken care of, Parkash said that the next day, the sarpanch objected to them doing the bhangra in the open space in front of his house. He also threatened one Ram Kishan, alias Ghulla, who provided them the space to store furnaces for the wedding celebrations, she said, alleging that the sarpanch was the protege of a BJP minister and was using his political influence to harass them.

However, when contacted, Kashmira Singh denied the charges. As far as the allegations of house demolition were concerned, he said that the land in question belonged to the panchayat and the building on it had been brought down after completing the legal formalities.

As for the problems during the wedding, Kashmira Singh claimed he had no role in either locking up the gurdwara or denying the use of utensils. ``The other party never sought to use either; now they are making an issue of it,'' he said, while also denying using bad language with Parkash and halting the bhangra.

Though he admitted that he was close to a particular BJP minister, the latter had nothing to do with village affairs, Singh said.

Incidentally, members of the Jat Sikh community corroborated Parkash's claim that the SC gurdwara had been locked and remained that day despite the family's request on the day of the wedding. ``Gurdwaras are common (property) and there should be no discrimination,'' said Santokh Singh, a Jat Sikh.

Interestingly, while Ram Kishan told ENS that the sarpanch had caught him by the neck after the wedding and threatened him, Kashmira Singh claimed that Ram Kishan had gathered together some miscreants with the intention of attacking his house.


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