The HinduSantosh Jadhav (second left), former sarpanch of Harihareshwar village in Maharashtra, is seen with his two children, son Manish (left), daughter Pooja and elder brother Sandip. Manish and Pooja are not allowed to play with other children in their area due to a caste boycott of the Jadhavs. Photo: Alok Deshpande
Santosh Jadhav’s decision to run for sarpanch against the will of the caste panchayat, triggered a vicious social boycott. One that still continues, nine years on.
Santosh Jadhav was once head of his village, Harihareshwar in Maharashtra. But, members of his own community no longer speak to him. His fault was to contest and win local elections in 2004, defying a caste panchayat diktat.
Mr. Jadhav belongs to the OBC Kunbi community. His decision to run for sarpanch against the will of the caste panchayat, triggered a vicious social boycott. One that still continues, nine years on.
“On the day I won the post of sarpanch, the caste panchayat tried to garland me with slippers,” says the 38-year-old. Initially, he stuck to his guns. Under his leadership, the village went on to win the President’s Nirmal Gram award and three State awards. But the ostracism forced him to relinquish his term a year early in 2008.
Yet till today, none of the 80 Kunbi families in the village speak to the Jadhavs. They don’t allow their children to play with their son and daughter. Nor do they do business with them. The general store, which the family used to run, shut down a year after the boycott was announced, with Mr. Jadhav still being the village head.
Mr. Jadhav says his refusal to fall in line with the caste panchayat’s diktats over the years must have led to the current situation. He had rebelled against their earlier calls to ostracise other families. He sold goods from his shop to them and allowed their children to watch TV in his house.
“The caste panchayat tried to stop me from interacting with boycotted families but I refused. So finally, they decided to target me. They took their revenge during the gram-panchayat elections,” he says. His growing social network in the village, must have also made them insecure, he feels.