Indian villagers dig trench around home of chief's suspected rapist son

Saptarshi Ray
Villagers dig trench around the man's house

Indian villagers in the state of West Bengal came up with a novel form of punishment for a suspected local criminal terrorising their neighbourhood - dig a trench around his house.

Mafizul Haq, the younger son of Ainul Haq, a panchayat - or village council - leader from the Trinamool Congress party, stands accused of violent crimes, rape and bullying those who attempt to stand up to him.

Tired of his reign of terror and lack of action by local officials, villagers of the Balabhut area in the village of Coochbehar found an original way to put him in his place an keep him there.

They worked through the night to dig a deep trench around his house, marooning him from the rest of the population and forcing him to plead for food, fresh water and supplies to be delivered over the ditch. 

The village is located near Tufanganj city, and tensions have been running high since the trench was dug, said local police in the eastern state. Locals claim that allegations against Mafizul are not investigated because he is protected by his father's political influence, reported the Zee News TV channel.

When some villagers complained, he allegedly beat up six members of a family, with four of them needing hospital treatment.

Two are in a facility in Coochbehar and another two have been admitted to a hospital in Tufanganj city. Cases are registered against Mafizul in Tufanganj police station but no action has been taken.

In rural parts of india the panchayat system often takes the place of police, courts and jailers simultaneously. People often come to the village council to settle business disputes, marriage problems and even serious crimes - before a panel of usually religious and landowning elders. 

However with no faith in the rural justice system, these villagers took it upon themselves to socially boycott the family and dug the five-feet long trench to isolate them.

Although the trench may not stop him from leaving, it is a symbolic gesture. Ainul Haq has denied knowledge of his son's criminal activities.

As panchayats are sometimes accused of being biased against lower caste Hindus and other religions, state magistrates are likely to oversee any inquiry in the villagers’ accusations in this predominately Muslim district.