Friday, October 29, 2004

Killing cat comes costly -- Feudalism in Madhya Pradesh

Santosh Singh in Bhopal

Oct. 28. — Killing a cat can be too costly for villagers in Damoh. Noboby knows it better than Mangna Kumhar, who was forced to arrange a mrityubhoj for 400-odd members of his community for two days — thanks to the panchayat which wanted “justice” for the animal kingdom. Killing of a cat is treated as an act of “sacrilege” in Kumhar community.

The move might have made the champions of animal rights happy but not poor Mangna who had to run from pillar to post to collect money and ran into heavy debt to atone for his “sin”. Mangna, a resident of Jhabera tehsil, killed the cat which often feasted on his flock of hens. The five-member panchayat went a step further when Hira Kumhar, a villager, did not turn up at the cats’ mrityubhoj. The panchayat ordered Hira Kumhar, to shell out Rs 1,000 fine for not attending the feast. And when he failed to do so, he was ostracised.

The matter came to light only after an office-bearer of the Damoh Prajapati Sangh, convinced 50 villagers to lodge a complaint with the Damoh collector. The district administration found the case “weird” and let off the panchayat by asking it not to act in such an autocratic fashion in future.

This is not the first time that a panchayat has had its way in Madhya Pradesh. About two months ago, a Shivpuri village panchayat had persuaded upper-caste school children not to accept food prepared by a Dalit cook. Last year, a Guna village panchayat forced a woman to consume pig excreta after branding her a witch. Former state chief minister Mr Digvijay Singh, considered the harbinger of panchayati raj, had then taken the incident with a pinch of salt.

Source: The Statesman, October 29, 2004

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