Bizarre khap diktat! Five months after marriage, couple asked to live as siblings

Chandigarh: In Haryana, there’s no full stop to the outrageous diktats of khaps. In the latest case of the community body infringing on the private space of citizens, a khap panchayat in Jind district has asked a married couple to live as brother and sister. The victims, Praveen Kumar and Poonam, were married five months ago.

The panchayat has ruled that there existed a bhaichara (kind of blood relationship) between the two families and therefore they could not marry each other. They should not just separate, but also consider each other as brother and sister.

 Bizarre khap diktat! Five months after marriage, couple asked to live as siblings

Representational image. Reuters

Living under extreme pressure from the villagers following the khap’s order, the hapless couple has approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court for protection. Looking at the gravity of the situation, the high court last week directed the Jind SSP Abhishek Jorwal to provide security to the couple and their family who are on the run now. Tension prevails in the village though.

Unlike in many cases where the young lovers run away to get married, the marriage of Praveen Kumar, 25 and Poonam, 30, from Tarori village of Karnal district, had been arranged by their respective families. They had five months as couple when the khap panchayat annulled the marriage on the ground that it was a case of bhaichara. Praveen, who is a clerk at a private automobile company in Kalayat near Jind, was asked by the khap panchayat to declare Poonam his sister and give her a shagun of Rs 10 as is the ritual.

Praveen is from the Kaushik Phetwadia gotra while Poonam belongs to the Kaushik Patwalia gotra. But these two gotras, according to their villagers, are considered to be under bhaichara (brotherhood) in which marriage is forbidden. The couple had an arranged marriage on 22 February last. Initially, there was no objection to their marriage by anyone, but for the last two months the villagers had been putting pressure on them to break their marriage.

In a joint petition filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Poonam said that recently her father-in-law was humiliated during a khap meeting and the family was threatened with a social boycott. Praveen, who was also called to the meeting, was told to publicly declare Poonam as his sister and maintain that relationship for life. Praveen’s family opposed the khap panchayat’s decision and decided to challenge it in the court. The panchayat reportedly also directed Praveen's father Azad Singh to disown his son from all the property and belongings and to deposit Rs 3,00,000 in the name of his grandson in a bank.

In a similar incident three years ago, a village panchayat near Rohtak district had directed a married couple to start living as brother and sister as they were from the same gotra. In this case Satish Berwal of Kheri village in Rohtak had married Kavita from Bhagi village of Jhajjar district. The couple had a 10-month-old boy as well. Satish belonged to the Berwal gotra, while Kavita was from Beniwal gotra. They had been warned of strict action by the panchayat if they did not comply with its order.

Such incidents have been happening at regular intervals in the state notorious for female foetecide. Haryana panchayats are known for notorious decisions related to inter-caste marriages or marriages among the same gotra or bhaichara gotra. A few years ago Manoj and Babli of Karoda village in Kaithal district were brutally killed on the direction of the Banwala khap, which was also responsible for the killing of Ved Pal Maun at Singhwal village in Jind district earlier.

Manoj and Babli were murdered despite having police protection under the high court order. Their bodies were found near a canal in Hisar district. Arrests were made later and the guilty were punished, but there was no action against the people who had instigated the attackers. In many such incidents the khaps have ordered the ostracisation of the families involved.

Leave aside advocating any action against such diktats of the khap panchayats, politicians in Haryana are even afraid to make any adverse comment on the issue. For the fear of losing their vote bank the political leaders from the Congress to the BJP to Indian National Lok Dal and all other parties avoid taking a tough stand against such shocking incidents.

But hopefully things have started changing and even some khap leaders are now coming out openly against such obnoxious decisions of the khap panchayats. "We condemn such Talibani diktat of the khaps. It is criminal to ask a married couple to live like brother and sister. In this case I am afraid Poonam is even pregnant. How can she call her husband a brother?" asks DP Vats, national co-ordinator of Sarv Jatiya Khap Panchayat and retired chairman of the Haryana Public Service Commission while talking to Firstpost.

Vats from Hisar district, who also belongs to the Brahmin community like Pravin and Poonam, says it is alright if according to tradition people of the same gotra should not marry, but the bhaichara gotra is something different and slowly the khaps in Haryana are accepting such marriages. "The sex ratio in Haryana is so poor. Female foeticide is rampant. People are finding it difficult to find girls to marry so they go for 'Molki' (buying girls from outside state). Marriage rules therefore have to be relaxed now," he says.

"I am against such diktats of the khap panchayats and condemn them," Santosh Dahiya, National Woman president of Haryana Sarv Jatiya Sarv Khap Panchayat said. Such diktats are most illogical. How can married couple live as siblings? These incidents give a bad name to society," she says.

Talking to Firstpost, Yashpal Malik, National President of the Sarv Jatiya Sarv Khap Mahapanchayat said the government should immediately lodge a FIR and arrest such khap leaders who issue such Talibani diktats. "Many khaps are non-Constitutional bodies and have no standing in society. They will not learn unless strict punishment is meted out to them," Sudesh Chaudhary, president of Satrol Khap, Haryana also condemned the incident and said such diktats cannot be tolerated by society anymore. She called for creation of more awareness on such a sensitive issue.

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Updated Date: Jul 20, 2015 21:38:27 IST