Many a ‘just-married’ runaway couple has been subject to the ‘justice’ of organizations (maybe that is not the right word given how disorganized they are) like Khap Panchayats for marrying across castes. But the problem is not just limited to Khaps. This is a societal problem that is widespread and it is present across India. Historically, Maharashtra has seen several social reform movements succeed and has generally been one of the states where social boycott and ostracism is not that common.
The state has seen its fair share of “social boycotts”, wherein individuals or families have
been ostracized by the village councils or sometimes even the entire community. It is usually the women and lower caste Dalits often bear the brunt of such judgements, passed as punishment for perceived misdeeds such as marrying between castes or dressing immodestly. Under orders from village councils, individuals have even been banished from the community, and denied access to temples, wells, markets and celebrations. In some cases, panchayats have even branded women as witches, and ordered gang rapes or killings as punishment.
However, Maharashtra has become the first state to ban these “social boycotts”. Maharashtra's new law declares social boycotts a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison, a fine of 500,000 ($7,500), or both.
Maharashtra, home to several social reformers including B.R. Ambedkar, who fought against caste discrimination, in 2013 passed legislation criminalizing practices related to black magic, human sacrifices, and other superstitious beliefs. The social boycott act is another step toward ending out-dated customs.
The Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis along with other human rights activists are now insisting that other states follow Maharashtra’s lead and enact and enforce similar laws.
This is the second important social reform law to be passed in recent times in Maharashtra after the law criminalizing black magic, human sacrifices, and other superstitious practices was passed in the year 2013.
Thus, we have another step taken towards social reform in a state that has been usually at its forefront Maharashtra continues to remain Maharashtra, albeit some unfortunate pauses in the middle.