Neighbours agree to swap wives

A village council in northern India allegedly ordered a woman, whose husband ran off with their neighbour’s wife, to live with the abandoned man or pay him compensation.

Police are investigating a complaint that Rajendra Meghwal asked the council in the desert state of Rajasthan for help after his wife and their two children disappeared with Kalulal Meghwal.

Kalulal’s wife Mamta has told police that the council or “khap panchayat” ordered her to pay Rajendra 300,000 rupees ($4,775) in compensation for her husband’s actions or move in with Rajendra.

“The woman was not present in the khap meeting but she complained to us that she has been asked to pay money or live with Rajendra,” local police officer Sanjay Kumar told AFP.

It was unclear whether the woman was asked to live with him as his spouse or as his employee in the house.

Kumar said officers have started questioning council members in Bundi district after Mamta filed a harassment complaint with police.

Panchayats often comprise an unelected group of elders, who are seen as the social and moral arbiters of village life.

Although they carry no legal weight, khap panchayats can be highly influential and have been blamed for numerous abuses such as the sanctioning of “honour killings” of women whose actions are deemed to have shamed their family.

Branded “kangaroo courts” by their critics, they have been known to hand down public beatings and other punishments for perceived crimes.

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