Social boycott or ostracising people and families by the Khap Panchayats will now be a crime in Maharashtra. The state has become the first country to ban them. Earlier, President Pranab Mukherjee had given his presidential consent to the Maharashtra Prohibition of Social Boycott Act, 2015.
According to media reports, the need for enacting the law was felt in 2015 after several cases of social boycott were reported from various parts of the state. Prominent among such cases was the social boycott imposed on Mount Everest climber Rahul Yelange (31), and his wife Pournima Yelange.
They were boycotted by the Budruk village in the Raigad district. The couple tried to settle down in the village to carry out dairy business and to train youth in adventure sports, but were reportedly forced to move to Pune. Later, they settled down in Dubai.
According to a report in The Hindu – under the new law, the members of the Extra-Judicial Bodies like the Caste and Community Panchayats can be punished with imprisonment up to seven years and or a fine of Rs 5 lakhs or both. The law was passed by the State Legislature on April 13, 2016 and was then sent to the Center for its approval.
Interestingly, the law provides for an official to be appointed to look into the matter of Social boycott which includes, preventing a person from participating in social and religious programmes, festivals, processions, rallies, using common institutions like schools, club houses and medical facilities etc. Supporters of the Caste Panchayat’s decisions would also be termed as accused.
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Following the decision, Hamid Dabholkar, activist of Maharashtra Andhshradha Nirmulan Samiti and son of slain anti-superstition crusader Narendra Dabholkar, said their three-and-a-half-year-old demand had been met.
“We believe the Act is a tribute to Narendra Dabholkar, who had started the fight,” he said, according to a report of the Hindustan Times.