In a significant turn of events, the caste panchayat in Chikhal Dongari village in Virar has been permanently disbanded. Following the imposition of fines ranging from ₹25,000 to ₹50,000 on 20 individuals last month, the village has initiated the process of refunding the collected fines. The move comes in response to the public outcry, with local authorities heeding the call for justice. The incident, which unfolded on November 8, saw the unlawful establishment of the caste panchayat in Virar West’s Chikhal Dongari village.
The fines, ranging from ₹25,000 to ₹50,000, were imposed on those opposing the caste panchayat, citing various reasons. Subsequently, 17 individuals faced charges under the Social Boycott Act, as filed by the Arnala Sagari police. Following this development, tehsildars in Vasai had directed villages, including Chikhal Dongari, to hold meetings and put an end to such practices. Consequently, the caste panchayat, which had been active in Chikhal Dongari since ancient times, has been disbanded. The announcement of the removal of the caste panchayat was made after confrontations and disputes within the village, leading to the expulsion of the caste panchayat members.
Initiation of Refund Process
The controversy began in Murabad, where a dispute arose between the Shri Dattaguru Devasthan Trust and the local caste panchayat. The Gurumauli Joshi from Dattaguru Devasthan Trust met with 20 individuals from the village, each of whom was fined ₹50,000 by the caste panchayat. Subsequently, the process of refunding these fines has been set in motion. While nine individuals had already paid the fines, others had requested an extension for fulfilling this financial obligation. Information regarding the refund of fines for these nine individuals was provided by a member of the caste panchayat to the media.
Two Individuals Remain Unsettled
Among those fined, Umesh Vaity and Darshan Vaity have yet to settle their fines due to a lack of communication with them. The boycott imposed on them has resulted in social isolation within the village. However, the caste panchayat has indicated that upon their return to the village and seeking forgiveness, the fines may be refunded. This condition was communicated by a member of the caste panchayat.
Village’s Joyful Reaction
The disbandment of the caste panchayat has brought relief and joy to the villagers, who express gratitude for the swift intervention by local authorities. “We were living under constant pressure. Fines were imposed arbitrarily, exploiting our vulnerability. I only visited Gurumauli, and I was fined ₹50,000. Now, after the intervention, I am relieved to know that the fines will be refunded,” said Devenra Raut, a resident of Chikhal Dongari.
The disbandment of the caste panchayat in Chikhal Dongari village marks a crucial victory for the villagers who had been living under the shadow of arbitrary fines and social boycotts. The initiation of the refund process sends a strong message against such practices, emphasizing the importance of personal freedom and individual decision-making within the community. As the village welcomes the end of this oppressive tradition, the residents hope for a more inclusive and just future, free from the clutches of caste-based discrimination and undue influence.