Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
India village councils under scrutiny after rape

< Previous Page

Nityananda Hembrom, the chief of West Bengal’s 6 million Santhals, said the village council is being unfairly maligned, and that there are not enough details about the case.

"Maybe the girl was assaulted," he acknowledged. But he said the tribal community and lifestyle is under siege, and that he believes the council was acting against some sort of "cultural erosion."

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Some observers say a general election, expected by May, has given the village elders even more power because politicians know local leaders dictate how their communities vote. India is the world’s biggest democracy, with a population of 1.2 billion people.

Jagmati Sangwan, general secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, said the village councils are so powerful because politicians court them for votes.

"The message is going round that you can do whatever you want and can go scot-free," she said. "As a result conservative forces are feeling emboldened."

Some of the most horrifying cases of local justice involve honor killings, often the culmination of threats and intimidation by a young couple’s families and community.

Narendra Singh’s brother and sister-in-law were slain in 2007 in an honor killing after the couple fled their village and secretly married. Singh filed a murder case accusing the girl’s family of being behind the killing, enraging the village council.

After years of being shunned, Singh’s life only recently has returned to normal.

"The council ruled that any villager found interacting with my family would be fined 25,000 rupees ($400) each," said Singh. "Only 8 to 10 villagers out of a total of 10,000 kept some sort of contact with us."

Awungshi, who has not seen her daughter even once, eight years after her ex-boyfriend’s family abducted her, says she thinks of the girl every day and regrets that the village elders did not help her by remaining indifferent to her plea, thereby supporting the child’s custody with her father.

story continues below
story continues below

She heard that her ex-boyfriend’s family has given the girl a new name, Yarmi, which means "gift."

"She is 14 now," Awungshi said. "I hope and pray she will come back to me on her own one day when she becomes a mother herself."


Associated Press writer Chonchui Ngashangva contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.