The Panchayati System and the Plough Test: A Story of How a Traditional Form of Governance Upheld the Rights of a Farmer Against a Cheater

There was a small village in India, where the people lived in harmony and peace. The village had a panchayati system, where the elders of the village would meet and decide on various matters concerning the welfare of the villagers. The head of the panchayati was a wise and honest man, who was respected by everyone. He was called the panch.

One day, a farmer came to the panch and complained that his neighbor had encroached on his land and built a fence around it. He asked the panch to settle the dispute and give him justice. The panch agreed to look into the matter and asked both the parties to come to the panchayati meeting the next day.

The next day, the panch and the other elders gathered at the village square, where the farmer and his neighbor were also present. The panch asked them to state their cases and show their proofs. The farmer showed his land records and claimed that his neighbor had taken over a part of his land without his consent. The neighbor denied this and showed his own land records, which showed that he had not encroached on any land. He accused the farmer of lying and trying to grab his land.

The panch examined both the records carefully and found that they were identical. He realized that someone had forged one of them to create a false claim. He decided to test the honesty of both the parties and find out who was telling the truth. He asked them to bring their ploughs and oxen to the disputed land and plough it in front of him.

The farmer and his neighbor agreed to do so and went to fetch their ploughs and oxen. They soon returned with their tools and animals and reached the disputed land. The panch asked them to start ploughing from opposite ends of the land and meet in the middle.

The farmer began ploughing from his end, while his neighbor did the same from his end. As they ploughed, they came closer and closer to each other. When they were about to meet in the middle, the farmer stopped his plough and said, "This is enough. This is where my land ends and yours begins. I will not plough any further."

The neighbor, however, did not stop his plough and continued to plough towards the farmer's side. He said, "No, this is not enough. This is where your land ends and mine begins. I will plough till I reach your fence."

The panch saw this and understood who was honest and who was dishonest. He stopped the neighbor from ploughing any further and said, "You have proved yourself to be a liar and a cheat. You have forged your land records and tried to take over your neighbor's land by force. You have no right to this land. I order you to remove your fence and return this land to its rightful owner."

The neighbor was ashamed and scared. He realized that he had been caught red-handed by the panch. He apologized to the farmer and removed his fence. He returned the land to the farmer and begged for his forgiveness.

The farmer was happy and grateful. He thanked the panch for giving him justice and praised him for his wisdom and honesty. The other villagers also applauded the panch for his fair judgment and integrity.

The panch smiled and said, "I am only doing my duty as a panch. It is my responsibility to uphold justice and truth in this village. I hope you all will learn from this incident and live in harmony with each other."

The villagers nodded their heads in agreement and promised to follow his advice. They respected him even more for his honesty and wisdom.

Moral: Honesty is always rewarded, while dishonesty is always punished.

Image credit: Zosia Korcz

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