A woman was allegedly tied to a tree and flogged in public by her husband on a village panchayat’s order for eloping with another man in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr district, police said on Thursday.
The woman’s husband, a former panchayat head and his son were arrested after a video clip of the incident was widely circulated on social media and through messaging apps. Hindustan Times could not independently verify the authenticity of the video clip.
The incident occurred on March 10 at Launga village, about 400 km from state capital Lucknow.
Bulandshahr superintendent of police Praveen Ranjan Singh said police registered a case against 18 people, 12 of them unidentified, after receiving a copy of the video clip.
Police contacted the woman, said to be in her late 20s, at her parents’ house on Wednesday night.
“Former pradhan Shersingh, his son Shravan and woman’s husband Shaudan Singh have been arrested and raids are underway to arrest other accused,” said Singh.
The 73-second video clip, apparently shot with a mobile phone, purportedly shows the saree-clad woman’s hands tied to an overhead branch of a tree and repeatedly hit with what appeared to be a leather belt by a man in a green shirt and a jacket. The woman could be heard grunting and screaming after each hit.
The video also shows a large crowd of men watching the beating and some of them can even be heard berating the woman.
Police said the panchayat wanted to “teach a lesson to the woman”.
In her complaint to police, the woman admitted to eloping with her neighbour Dharmendra Lodhi on March 5 and staying at the house of one of his relatives in another village.
After five days, a group of people from Launga convinced the couple to return to their village.
Police said Shersingh and his supporters convened a kangaroo court and ordered her public flogging.
Some of the villagers had objected to the punishment and asked the former pradhan to stop it but they were abused and asked to leave the place.
After the beating, the woman was dragged into a room where Shersingh and his supporters allegedly molested her and asked to keep silent. The woman also accused Shersingh of asking his men to make a video of the incident so that others could see the consequences of eloping.
Despite campaigns and awareness programmes, patriarchy runs deep in Indian societies, especially rural areas, where women must follow strict social norms which give them very little freedom. The mostly male-dominated village bodies such as panchayats and khap panchayats also mete out such diktats against women for bringing what they perceive as dishonour to the community.