Two young couples in Haryana’s Bhiwani district have been told to leave their homes, because they dared to defy the panchayat’s order prohibiting their marriage on caste grounds.The families of Krishna and Manju are now being protected by the police. Across the state, the tyranny of khap panchayats, a medieval Jat phenomenon, has been growing.
A khap is a cluster of villages of the same Jat subcaste or gotra and the panchayats hold Kangaroo courts. In the sessions, they pronounce judgements and punishments over issues ranging from social boycott to honour killings. Though the khap panchayats have no legal sanction they wield terrifying power, as the couple and their parents know. "I wanted to marry him and so I did. What could have happened at the most? We would have been killed!" said Manju, Krishna’s wife "We did think of cancelling the wedding but then our pride was at stake and besides we were doing nothing wrong," said Nirmala, mother of the bride
Caste ruling — In fact, it was decided at one of the khap panchayat meeting that Jagdish and his brother could not marry their fiancées, who are sisters from a neighbouring village. "We stole out in the middle of the night with police escorts. We went through the fields in the night and got married before the scheduled hour," said Jagdish, the groom. In retaliation, the panchayat has ordered them to leave the village. "They have acted against the will of society. We don’t want them to break the marriage, but since they have failed to respect our ruling they must leave the village," said Hoshiar Singh, panchayat member. Last year, the All India Democratic Women’s Association filed a PIL in the Haryana High Court, asking for a statewide ban on the undemocratic and anti-constitutional activities of caste panchayats.
The two couples had to steal away in the middle of the night for the weddings to take place. But now they are anticipating fresh trouble to brew on February 3, when they have been asked to leave the village, exactly 15 days after the date of the wedding.