Krishnagar, Sept. 12: A 30-year-old housewife was tonsured and her head rubbed with lime and face blackened before being paraded around for trying to escape her husband's torture.
A conciliation meeting (shalishi) at Khatura village in Krishnagunj, 110 km from Calcutta, decided on the punishment for the woman who had eloped.
Before parading her, the villagers beat her and locked her up in a room for hours.
Her husband Sudhir Das and three of his associates, including Subhadra Mondal who reportedly shaved the head and put the black paint after the shalishi declared its verdict, were arrested.
Nadia additional superintendent Biswarup Ghosh said: 'The villagers who tortured the woman will be punished.'
The police said Das' relation with his wife was strained. 'A reason behind the discord in the 10-year-old marriage is that they did not have children. Sudhir often forced his wife to give his friends company, which she hated,' an official said.
An affair with a local youth, Kartick Das, developed and the woman eloped to nearby Burnpur three days ago.
Yesterday, Das and his associates located the Burnpur hideout and brought his wife back to Khatura. Kartick, a trader by profession, fled.
Das dragged his wife to the village elders, who called the conciliation meeting. There, in the presence of about 50 villagers, Das charged his wife with infidelity and demanded punishment.
All the torture the woman underwent were according to the orders of the village elders. A fine of Rs 500 was also slapped on her.
'She is without character. We will not allow such women in our village. Drive her out,' demanded members of a large mob that marched behind the weeping woman around the village.
In her complaint to the police, the woman said she pleaded that she was poor and could not pay the fine. 'The more she pleaded, the more the villagers at the meeting hurled abuses. She fell at their feet but to no avail,' said an officer of Krishnagunj police station.
Ghosh said: 'Some villagers who were not party to the medieval torture escorted her to the police station.' Several villagers named in the FIR are absconding.
Ironically, the government wants to bring a law formalising conciliation at the block level to settle disputes.