Skip to main content

A war won & a battle lost… When police treated complaint as dispute, not criminal act

By Gagan Sethi*

The ingenious means of exploitation in tradition-bound villages of Bhal of Cambay taluka could well remind you of the feudal system.
One such tradition was of members of so-called upper caste in the area — the Durbars— paying money to members of another caste — Bharwads —to steal bullock carts of any Vankar who had acquired this asset (also a sign of economic and social mobility).
After the initial shock, he would get the message via community elders (called mahetars) that if he needed his cart back, he should visit the durbar who would ask him to pay Rs1,500 to Rs3,000 in return for the cart.
We heard of such an incident on one of our visits to Pandad village where we were to train a youth group in 1980. We told the group they should file a police complaint. The nearest police station being Cambay (now Khambhat), we asked if there isn’t a rule of law. There is, we were told. One has to seek permission of the durbar to go to the police station. After a lot of cajoling and a day of deliberations — discussions were done about consequences of ‘waging war’ against durbars and chances of not being paid for work on the field — one landless youth agreed. His father had recently died and he said there would be no pressure on him.
A dozen of us went to the police station and registered the complaint before a PSI whose first words were “Patayi do ne…. (just settle it).” Since we insisted and there was a man from the city in the group, the complaint was filed and a copy taken. However, it took us the whole day. The news had reached the village ahead of us. The Vankar elders were angry at such a transgression and were planning to apologise on behalf of these “juvaniyas” (youngsters).
We returned after telling the group that if they needed any help, they could get in touch with us. Five days later, when we had not heard anything, we got worried and rushed to the village. Just as we entered, the youth group gathered around us, very excited, “We have won!” they beamed. Asked what the police did, they said “We have withdrawn the case. The durbar has agreed to return a new cart.” We were shocked! “Did you say ‘won’? We have lost the battle!” we cried. They said that it had been proved that the durbar was a thief. Else, why would he have given them a new cart, they argued. “We have won the war. Now it will never be repeated,” they said.
The matter was treated as a dispute and not a criminal act. This blurring of understanding of ‘Rule of Law’ continues till today and many police stations, taluka and district judges support the process of ‘compromise’ even when the act is blatantly criminal.
Many years later, I was part of the drafting committee of nyaya panchayat Act with Dr Upendra Baxi, a renowned jurist. Everything was drafted, complete with provisions of designated space for women and dalits and having the possibility of trained paralegals at the village level to settle disputes under the frame work of the Constitution and separate criminal offences from dispute resolution. The Act was shelved as the then government preferred the Gram Nyayalaya, creating another rung of judiciary. Its day must come!

*Author is founder of Janvikas & Centre for Social Justice. First published in DNA

Comments

TRENDING

Eight years of empowering tribal communities through water initiatives in Chhattisgarh

By Gazala Paul*   In the heart of Chhattisgarh, amidst the echoes of tribal life, a transformative journey has unfolded over the past eight years. The Samerth organization has diligently worked to elevate the lives of indigenous communities in the Kawardha district through the project, "Enabling Baiga Community to access safe drinking water." 

Martin Crowe played instrumental role in making New Zealand a force in world cricket

By Harsh Thakor* Late Martin Crowe was the perfect manifestation of how mere figures could not convey or do justice to the true merit of a batsman. Crowe was arguably the most complete  or majestic batsmen of his era or the ultimate embodiment of batting perfection, or the classical batsmen. He perished 7 years ago, due to a rare and aggressive form of cancer, follicular lymphoma, which originated in 2012. In September, we celebrated his 60th birthday but sadly he left for his heavenly abode.

Regretful: Kapil Dev retired not leaving Indian cricket with integrity he upheld

By Harsh Thakor  Kapil Dev scaled heights as an entertainer and a player upholding the spirit of the game almost unparalleled in his era. In his time he was cricket’s ultimate mascot of sportsmanship On his day Kapil could dazzle in all departments to turn the tempo of game in the manner of a Tsunami breaking in. He radiated r energy, at a level rarely scaled in his era on a cricket field. Few ever blended aggression with artistry so comprehenisively. Although fast medium, he could be as daunting with the ball as the very best, with his crafty outswinger, offcutter, slower ball and ball that kicked from a good length. Inspite of bowling on docile tracks on the subcontinent, Kapil had 434 scalps, with virtually no assistance. I can never forget how he obtained pace and movement on flat pancakes, trapping the great Vivian Richards in Front or getting Geoff Boycott or Zaheer Abbas caught behind. No paceman carried the workload of his team’s bowling attack on his shoulders in his eras muc

How the slogan Jai Bhim gained momentum as movement of popularity and revolution

By Dr Kapilendra Das*  India is an incomprehensible plural country loaded with diversities of religions, castes, cultures, languages, dialects, tribes, societies, costumes, etc. The Indians have good manners/etiquette (decent social conduct, gesture, courtesy, politeness) that build healthy relationships and take them ahead to life. In many parts of India, in many situations, and on formal occasions, it is common for people of India to express and exchange respect, greetings, and salutation for which we people usually use words and phrases like- Namaskar, Namaste, Pranam, Ram Ram, Jai Ram ji, Jai Sriram, Good morning, shubha sakal, Radhe Radhe, Jai Bajarangabali, Jai Gopal, Jai Jai, Supravat, Good night, Shuvaratri, Jai Bhole, Salaam walekam, Walekam salaam, Radhaswami, Namo Buddhaya, Jai Bhim, Hello, and so on.

Towards 2024: Time for ‘We the People of India’ to wake up before it is too late

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  It is Constitution Day once again! We, the people of India, gratefully remember 26 November 1949 when the Constitution of India was passed and adopted by the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly comprised women and men of distinction, who were able to represent the heart and soul of the people of India without fear or favour. They gave of their best, so that we may a visionary Constitution, which would be the mainstay for and of democracy in India!

Ceasefire a tactical victory for Palestinian resistance, protests intensify across globe

By Harsh Thakor*  The Zionist leadership and Netanyahu’s government were compelled to concede the defeat of their first attempt after almost 50 days of daily fighting in the Gaza Strip.  Netanyahu was forced to concede that he was unsuccessful in suppressing the Palestinian Resistance; and that the release of the prisoners was only plausible because they accepted Hamas’ terms.

Odisha leadership crisis deepens: CM engages retired babus to oversee depts' work

By Sudhansu R Das  Over decades, Odisha has lost much of its crop diversity, fertile agriculture land, water bodies, employment potential, handicraft and handloom skills etc. The state has failed to strike a balance between the urban and rural sector growth; this leads to the migration of villagers to the urban areas leading to collapse of the urban infrastructures and an acute labor shortage in rural areas.  A large number of educated, skilled and unskilled Odia people have migrated to other states for higher education, quality jobs and for earning livelihood which plummet the efficiency level of government departments. Utmost transparency in the recruitment and promotion in the state government departments will improve governance mechanisms in the state.  "No near and dear one approach" in governance mechanisms can only achieve inclusive growth for the state on payment basis. This is a moral hazard. When so many educated young people seek employment outside the

1982-83 Bombay textile strike played major role in shaping working class movement

By Harsh Thakor  On January 18th, 1982 the working class movement commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Textile Workers Strike that lasted for 18 months, till July 1983. It was landmark event that played a major role in shaping the working class movement. With more than 2.5 lakh workers from 65 textile mills joining in this strike for almost two years, this strike became one of the most significant strikes in terms of scale and duration All democrats should applaud the mill workers’ united battle, and their unflinching resilience an death defying courage continues to serve as a model for contemporary working-class movements. Many middle class persons harboured opinions that the Textile workers were pampered or were a labour aristocracy, ignorant of how they were denied wages to provide for basic necessities. The Great Bombay Textile Strike is notably one of the most defining movements in the working class struggles in Post-independent India. Bombay’s textile industry flourished in

Massive tropical deforestation: Big finance's $307 billion go to forest-risk commodities

A note on report by Forests & Finance coalition -- Rainforest Action Network, TuK Indonesia, Profundo, Amazon Watch, Repórter Brasil, BankTrack, Sahabat Alam Malaysia and Friends of the Earth US: *** A new report released on ‘Finance Day’ at COP28 by the Forests & Finance Coalition , provides a comprehensive look into the role big finance plays in driving deforestation, biodiversity loss, climate change and human rights abuses in tropical forest regions. The report reveals that since the Paris Agreement, banks have pumped over $307 billion into high risk forestry and agriculture companies linked to tropical deforestation, proving that the policies of major global banks and investors are failing to prevent continued widespread forest and biodiversity loss.

20% of Indian businesses have no emission plan in place despite climate emergency: Report

By Jag Jivan   New research underlines urgent need for strategies and transition plans to combat climate change, remain successful and meet stakeholder expectations.