By Riyaz Sayyed
Recently, President of India gave assent to Maharashtra Social Boycott Law 2016 which provides for prohibition of social boycott of a person or group of persons, including their family members, by an individual or a group like a caste Panchayat.
It states that social boycott is prohibited and its commission shall be an offence, the maximum punishment for which will be seven years in prison or fine up to Rs.5 lakh or both. It also states that maximum punishment for extending aid in relation to the commission of offence will be three years or Rs.3 lakh or both.
The new law disallows social boycott in the name of caste, community, customs, inter-caste marriage, lifestyle, dress or vocation.
But why there is need to bring this law??
The decision was reaction to pressures from growing incidents of atrocities on individuals by Jati Panchayats or Gavkis wielding extra-judicial powers.
Though state develops economically at a fast pace compared to other states. It has highest per capita income than any other states and way ahead of national average but socially does not progress at the same pace.
There were number of incidence of honour killings after inter caste marriages, boycott by caste Panchayat if rules were not followed, atrocities on so called lower castes. The state government’s move is meant to send out a message that democracy is not about majoritarianism.
Social boycott thrived in the state came to light after some incident surfaced.
An entire village boycotting a couple in Poladur, Raigad, because the wife wore jeans, and not a sari, and did not wear the Mangalsutra or a Bindi on her forehead. Her husband successful to climbed mount Everest but unsuccessful in evicting anti social elements from minds of their fellow villagers.
A girl from so called upper caste was brutally murdered as she married to low caste boy. It was height of crime as she was 9 month pregnant which caused human right activist to protest against such incidence.
There is a cultural lag in Maharashtra as standard of living increases due to rise in income but ways of thinking have not changed progressively in some pockets specially in villages where Kangaroo Courts still enforce their rules, this law meant to check such kinds of abuses.
Implications:- Chief minister of Maharashtra told that a progressive state like Maharashtra cannot proceed with this kind of element of social boycott. It needs to proper check and make balance because of prevailing laws unable to check the abuse.
Maharashtra became the first state to enact such a law and set precedent for other states like UP and Haryana where kangaroo court has wielded extra ordinary power due to political reasons.
Human right activist like Narendra Dabholkar in his last days were propagating a or similar law against social boycott. It is a victory of progressive thinking of dabholkar and right step to check extra judicial powers of kangaroo courts.
Though Maharashtra has many areas where people have progressive thoughts and rational thinking. But some pockets remains socially backward. This law is meant for them.