Lawlessness and Rural India

rural indiaIt is not easy to enforce the rule of the law in Rural India, and the shortage of police is only one aspect of it. The truth is that Panchayats rule there. Caste plays a part. Sure, the Panchayats do a lot of good too, in a country where the judiciary is slow and the police force not strong enough, but there are too many cases of Panchayats flouting the laws of the country. Whether it comes to child marriage, forcing girls to marry their rapists, allowing triple talaq, imposing dress codes, ordering social boycotts of people, encouraging honour killings, ordering beating and raping of women as punishment, and at times, turning a blind eye to murder and lynching.

Politics plays a part.  Politics and crime are connected in both rural and urban India, but it is in rural India that this is glaringly evident. At times because the Panchayats are in a politician’s pocket, and at times for no other reason other than upcoming elections. The media does not venture so much in rural India, and as a result, these crimes are not highlighted. The victims are not the Jessica Lalls of India. These are anonymous, ordinary people, and the killers are often from powerful families.

This particular story I am referring to is about a murder of a woman in Peepli Khera which was covered up last year, and reported by a foreign journalist. This is a story of how politics crept into the equation. It is about how a woman was murdered by her husband in front of a dozen people, but he was never brought to justice because his extended family controlled over 150 votes. Besides, the police had been bribed. This was reported by Ellen Barry, a reporter from the New York Times.

If the media reported poor and rural victims with as much alacrity as they do urban victims, perhaps there might be some justice in store for these hapless people. Sure, the police, the politicians, the judiciary, they are all culpable, but we do know that they are forced to get their act together when the media makes a hoo-ha of it.

Guess what today’s major newspapers had splashed their front pages with? Ex-President Pranab Mukherjee’s talk at an RSS meet. Who cares? Oh yes…the other politicians. Maybe it’s time that newspapers started a separate edition for “politicians only”.

We, the common citizens of India want to know more about the injustices present in our society, whether in rural or urban India. Confronting injustice head-on is the only way to get rid of it. Burying one’s head in the sand leads to the perpetuation of injustice.

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