The alleged gang rape of a 20-year-old Indian woman on orders of the village elders has brought into focus India’s often regressive system of rural justice meted out by unelected, all-male councils.
Indian village councils, known as “salisha sabha” in West Bengal and as “khap panchayats” in other parts of India, comprise of unelected male members from the same “gotra” or subsect of a caste.
For centuries, these all-male councils have been settling disputes and controlling daily life in hundreds of villages by dictating their own brand of social justice, which is rooted in a deeply conservative and patriarchal society.
When they’re not reportedly ordering women to be gang raped, these village councils have encouraged honor killings of couples who fall in love against their family’s wishes or outside their religion; they have called for bans on same-subcaste and same-village marriages, and their solutions to curb rapes have included banning cell phones and jeans for women, pushing for early marriage for girls, and ordering rape victims to marry their accused rapists.
Sharma uses dark humor and pop culture references to offer a scathing commentary on the khaps’ brand of regressive justice.
The tweets touch upon honor killings and the khaps’ views on education, women’s rights, and other conservative codes of conduct.
While the tweets could be perceived as offensive and subversive, Sharma’s mockery of India’s village councils offer a disturbing, and at times, painfully reflective view of the country’s rural justice system.
Khap - Village council
Gotra - Subcaste
Khet - Farmland