#India -Bonded brides – Molki women on Sale #Vaw #Trafficking


ASHOK KUMAR, The Hindu

Marriage or shackles? Molki women lead a life of subjugation.
APMarriage or shackles? Molki women lead a life of subjugation.

Trafficked brides in Haryana are reduced to sex objects and cheap labour.

Import of women to Haryana as brides from far-off regions outside the State is by now a known trend, but a recent study on the social status and rights of these women, usually referred as paro or molki (meaning purchased), reveals how they cut from their people, native place and culture forever, end up as “sex toys” in bed and cheap labourers in the fields. They end up with no right to property or to interfere in family and social matters, even as the police, the media and society as large turns its back to the issue.

“Though the trend of bride trafficking is mostly associated with skewed sex ratio, there are several other factors such as need for cheap labour that contribute to it. An overwhelming majority of themolki women work in fields and just a fraction of them are managing households. Because of fast decreasing landholdings and increase in labour cost, the families in Haryana bring these women from other States in the garb of marriage and keep them as bonded farm labourers. The well-off zamindars usually don’t keep these women with themselves due to social constraints and marry them off to their local labourers. The women are then sexually abused both by their husband and his employer and also double up as cheap farm labourers,” said Shafiq R. Khan, founder of Empower People that carried out the study ‘Molki: Women on Sale…’

The trend of bride trafficking is also linked to age-old custom of karewa (sexual relations of more than one male with a single woman) that has been in existence in the region for ages, but was gradually on decline due to sanskritisation. The custom is now being revived through this practice and the molkiwomen are sexually exploited by all the males of the family. Social acceptance of karewa and its prevalence can be seen in folklore and local proverbs.

The study conducted in Haryana’s Jind and Kurukshetra districts, which are most notorious for female foeticide, reveals that 66 per cent of the families practising bride trafficking are Jats, followed by 15 per cent Sainis, though the custom is prevalent among almost all other castes. “Jats being the dominating caste, both economically and politically, play a significant role in setting social trends. On the other hand, Sainis are the only caste in Haryana to challenge Jats politically and economically and are leading the non-Jat politics in the State for several years now. So, when the molki woman was set as a standard of social dominance, the Sainis started challenging the Jats in this sphere, too,” explains Mr. Khan.

With local women having no right over land and little say in family and social matters in many areas of Haryana, the circumstances of the molki women are even worse. More than 80 per cent of the molkiwomen interviewed as part of the study revealed that they are not registered in local ration cards or voter lists, thus denying them the status and rights of a permanent family member. These women hardly participate in local customs and do not stand a chance of visiting their parents or native place ever after the “marriage”. Though most of these trafficked women, especially those belonging to West Bengal and Assam, have non-vegetarian food habits and take rice, they are forced to adjust to vegetarian food habits prevalent in Haryana, says Mr. Khan, adding that those in nuclear families enjoy relatively more independence within the family, but not in society at large.

The lives of the molki women, who have no right to property, become more pitiable after their ‘owner’s’ death and they are either sold or handed over to others as there is no social pressure on the family to take care of their basic needs. Some of these women adopt prostitution as a means of livelihood. They, however, stand a chance to stay with the family if they have children.

 

#India-Minor raped in moving vehicle in Barmer district of Rajasthan #Vaw #nocountryforwomen


CHILDRAPE

Rohit Parihar  Barmer, December 28, 2012 , India Today

A 16-year-old girl was abducted and gangraped by three men in a vehicle in Rawatsar village of Barmer on the night of December 27. Police have arrested two accused while the third is absconding.

The girl was returning home with her aunt after attending a religious congregation when three persons in a Bolero Camper vehicle stopped next to  them and pushed the girl inside the vehicle. Her aunt, who desperately tried to resist, was pushed hard and as she fell down, the three sped away with her. The girl was raped twice by each of them in the vehicle. “I resisted a lot but they did it twice,” the girl said in the FIR.

She was found abandoned in the desert, half-a-kilometre from her village. A medical board has confirmed rape. The girl is being produced before the magistrate for recording her statement.

Eight teams of police searched for the alleged rapists and arrested Manohar Lal Jat of Kapoorali village and Narendra Singh Jat of Khandeen village. Shera Ram Jat of Mokhav village is absconding.

 

#India- inter-caste marriage- couple faces threat to lives



Tribune News Service

Priyanka and Suresh fear threat to their lives due to their inter-caste marriage.
Priyanka and Suresh fear threat to their lives due to their inter-caste marriage. A Tribune Photograph

Sirsa, December 16
A newly wedded couple is facing threat to its lives for breaking customs and marrying outside their castes.

Priyanka Kaswan, who belongs to a Jat family from Panniwala Mota village in Sirsa, married Suresh, a Dalit youth from Kheowali on December 14.

Since their marriage, the couple is living under threat from the girl’s family members and some other close relatives.

“When we went to the district courts to seek security for us immediately after our marriage, Raja Kaswan, my close relative, came there and warned us that both of us will be liquidated,” Priyanka alleged in her complaint addressed to the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA).

Both Priyanka and Suresh have given identical complaints to the CJM-cum-secretary of the authority to Advocate Usha Kaswan, a lawyer on the panel of the DLSA.

The couple said they had again received threatening calls from Priyanka’s brother. He threatened to kill them once they came out of the protection home. Suresh has also expressed apprehension of threat to the life of his family members.

Meanwhile, couples staying in the protection home complained of poor amenities, broken windowpanes, and lack of cleanliness. “There is no kitchen where we can cook food and we have to order food from outside,” alleged the couples.

 

#India-Fact Finding Report on the #Rapes in #Haryana #Vaw #torture


 

A team of leaders and activists of AIPWA and AISA visited Haryana on 12-13 October, to investigate the alarming spate of rape cases in the state. The team comprised of AIPWA National Secretary Kavita Krishnan, JNU Students’ Union Councillor Anubhuti Bara, and AISA activists from Delhi University, Prerna and Saurabh Naruka. The team was accompanied by Comrade Prem Singh Gehlawat, in-charge of the CPI(ML) for Haryana.

 

Findings and observations of the team are as follows:

 

Dabra Case

Reshma (name changed), aged 16 years, belonging to Dalit community (Chamar) was gangraped by 8 persons on September 9, 2012 near Dabra village in Hisar district.

 

Rape and Resistance – A Survivor’s Account

“On September 9, I was on the way to my grandmother’s (and maternal uncle’s) home in Hisar town, around 3 pm, when I was dragged into a car in which there were 8 men, and taken to a deserted place near a tube-well. They made phone calls after which four more arrived on bikes. They (12 in all) all raped me, and filmed the act. They also threatened me that they would kill me and attack my family if I said anything. They forced me to swallow a pill, after which I became drowsy. When I came to, I came to the main road, hitched a lift on a passing bike and returned home.

I said nothing for nearly 10 days. My mother and I went to stay at my grandmother’s place on 11th. On 18th, my father came there and my parents both began asking me what the matter was. They had noticed that I was silent and depressed. Eventually I broke down and told them. My father then wanted to take me to the thana to file a complaint, but for some reason – hesitation or some pressure, I don’t know why – did not do that.

He left the house and went with my mother to the house of Randeep Surjewala’s mother-in-law (Surjewala is a Congress MLA and Industries Minister in the Haryana Govt), where he (my father) worked as a gardener. I heard that her security guard (associated with Punjab Police) showed my father the video of my rape. My father then sent my mother back to my grandmother’s home. And he then took poison and committed suicide.

On the same day, we went and filed an FIR. Dalit leaders with the help of villagers held a candle light protest, demanding action by the police. We said that we will hold a dharna and refuse to accept my father’s body for last rites, till the police arrests the accused. The dharna began on 19th. One of the accused is the nephew of the former MLA (elected from INLD), Puran Singh, who stays in the same village. Eventually we called off the dharna on 23rd, after the police made the first arrest.

I was shown photographs, and I made a positive identification of one of the rapists, and was unsure about another. But the police took the latter into remand, and beat that poor chap up badly, but did not take the one I had positively identified, into remand, though they did keep him in custody. Now, however, 8 of the accused have been arrested. The Test Identification Parade has not yet taken place, so I cannot say whether these 8 are indeed the culprits.

Since most of the accused are from the Jat community, the Sarpanch and other influential Jats in the village are protecting them. They even tried, through someone, to try to offer me Rs 2 crore to withdraw the case.

The accused live in the same village, in the area where the Jats live. Many of the accused have a criminal background. One of them is accused of killing a Jay boy, and a Chamar (Dalit) boy. Other rapes have occurred, many of them with Dalit girls, at the same spot. But Dalits work under Jats, and so are scared or reluctant to speak out.

The family of the Chamar boy who was brutally murdered have come forward to help us.

Where Jats are accused of rape, there are many powerful people to protect them. When Dalits rape someone from the Jat community, the entire Dalit community would be attacked. In our own village, a Dalit youth who fell in love with a Jat girl was killed. The girl was told to invite him home since her family had agreed to the marriage; they packed the girl off somewhere and killed the Dalit youth.

Sonia Gandhi came to Haryana to visit the family of a rape victim. The media kept asking me that day – why didn’t she come here? How can I answer that – would she phone me to let me know the reason?! The fact is that she won’t come here for fear of antagonising the Jat vote for the Congress.

The Government has promised my brother a job – but they are offering him a job that is not permanent.

I would like to go to school – but I feel I can’t go to the same school. I guess I will join a school that is further away.

 

Persistent Fear

Pushpa Barad and her daughter Sunita Barad (Reshma’s neighbours), told us that there are only three lanes in the village where Chamars live. There are about 500 Jat households, and 300 Dalit households(including Chamar, Dhanak and other Dalit communities.)

So the Chamars and other Dalits feel very vulnerable. Since the gang-rape, Sunita said she has stopped attending the training classes (towards a job) that she had enrolled for. The reason is that her brother was threatened by Jat men that his sister would not be safe as long as Reshma persisted in her case. Other Dalit girls too are scared to go to school.

There is a 24-hour police watch around Reshma’s house – but the rest of the Dalit community also seek police protection.

Pushpa told us that the former MLA Puran Singh family is quite influential locally, and the daughter of OmPrakash Chautala has also been married in their family.

Local Congress MLA Ram Niwas visited the victim family but showed his helplessness when he said that he can’t do much as he is still only ‘under training’!

Arrests of the Accused

Baljit, one of the accused, was arrested on September 23. We were told that this arrest took place when a girl student from the Jat community spotted him on a bus and tipped off the police. The police too confirmed this.

Several others among the accused were picked up from Ranikhet, Uttarakhand. The 8 now arrested have been apprehended with the help of villagers, some of them Jats.

 

The Sarpanch

The Sarpanch of the village is Mayawati Kaliravana, a woman, but her husband Inder is the one who goes by the title of Sarpanch. She (Mayawati) says she visited the rape survivor, but Inder admitted that while he had met her relatives, he had not actually met the survivor.

Inder denied that any help or protection was being given to the accused. He said that the accused were criminals, and had misbehaved with Jat girls just as well.

 

Involvement of Non-Jat Accused

 

Not all the accused in the case are from the Jat community. Many we spoke to suggested that the rape survivor had gone to the spot of the rape, of her own accord, with a man on a two-wheeler. This man, they said, is from the ‘Chhippi’ (tailor) community and is married and has children. The Sarpanch’s husband Inder said this man has a mobile phone shop, and helped make the MMS.

We must stress, though, that none we spoke to denied that the gang-rape occurred or that the Jat boys were responsible for the gang-rape.

The SP, however, said that this man from the Chippi community was a chemist, and had given the girl a contraceptive pill. When he and the girl emerged from the shack at the tube-well, they were surrounded by the Jat boys who had spotted them, roughed up the girl’s companion and raped her. According to the police, the accused had taken photographs of the girl at the time of the incident, but had not made or circulated an MMS. These photographs, though deleted from the phones of the accused, had been recovered through technology. They showed the girl weeping, and the faces of several of the accused, and were therefore valuable evidence. The man from the Chippi community too has been arrested.

 

Was this, then, a caste crime?

 

The police seem to believe, based on the above version, that the gang-rape was of an opportunist rather than a pre-planned nature. Therefore, they seem to assume that the gang-rape should not be seen as a crime against Dalits.

It is true that a girl of any other community in the same situation, too might be vulnerable to rape. But what cannot be ignored is that these were Jat youth from the same village – who recognised Reshma as a Dalit girl from their village. Was this not a factor in emboldening them to rape, confident of their impunity as members of the dominant community. Their confidence that they could terrorise her into silence, surely arose not only from the gendered and patriarchal notion of ‘shame’ imposed on her, but also on the fact that she was a Dalit who would think many times before daring to take on Jats.

Moreover, the fear and insecurity of the Dalit community following the gang-rape is palpable.

What if it is true that a married man from the backward Chippi community took Reshma along to the deserted spot with her consent? If true, this fact would in no way take away from the horrific crime of gang-rape that was committed by the other men – all Jats.

Hence, the SC/ST Act must be invoked in this case.

 

Conflicting Versions?

We hold that there is no substantial conflict in the versions of the incident regarding the actual gang-rape.

If (as has been suggested by some) the rape survivor has been reluctant to admit that she voluntarily accompanied a man to the spot, that is all too understandable. She would fear the social consequences of such an admission; the speculations about her morality that would follow; she would fear that her allegations of gang-rape would be questioned; and she might also not want to implicate the man with whom she had been friendly.

Can one blame her? She has seen the ruling party (Congress) spokesperson from her district say that 90% rape cases are consensual. Women in our society are told that if you agree to sex or even friendships with men before or outside marriage, why do you object to rape?

Social inhibitions of the rape survivor regarding admitting to a relationship, must not be made a pretext to undermine the credibility of her allegation of gang-rape.

Pressures on the Survivor?

 

We learnt that the rape survivor had named some of the accused in the FIR, but in her statement before a magistrate, she failed to name any of the accused.

There are indications of pressures on the survivor, not only from influential members of the dominant community as well as vested political interests from her own community. Some accounts suggested that the latter too were attempting to make political capital from the incident, while tacitly weakening the case by misguiding the survivor.

 

Our demands:

 

  1. 1.     The rape survivor is especially courageous and brave. All efforts must be made to ensure that the Government backs her aspirations for education, and also ensures a job for her, not just for her brother.
  2. 2.     Every effort must be made by the authorities to ensure protection and support for the rape survivor, to ensure that she does not come under any pressure, inducement, or advice by vested interests to ‘compromise’.
  3. 3.     The case must be fast-tracked, since the more time passes, the more scope there is for the accused to bring pressure on the victim.
  4. 4.     Rehabilitation for the family and schooling and higher education for the survivor be arranged as per their wishes

 

 

Banwasa Case

 

Naveena (name changed), a girl belonging to landless ‘Dhanak’ (Dalit Community) was gang raped by four persons on Sep 26, 2012. She was 18 years old and had been married just three months back.

Her father Karmaji is a ‘rajmistri’ with five siblings-3 sisters and 2 brothers. At the time of the incident, she was at her paternal house in Banwasa village of Gohana tehsil of Sonipat district.

The incident

Naveena was alone at her parental home when she received a message from her cousin Rambatheri that her husband is waiting for her at Gohana bus. Rambatheri apparently passed on the message given on phone by Shravan (one of the accused). Naveena’s brother, in the course of the conversation, later said that the call had in fact been made to Naveena’s bhabhi Malti.

Falling in the trap she left for Gohana around 10 am on September 26, not to return for next two days. Her brother Gurmit Singh returned from his school at 2 pm when he found that Sunila was not at home after which he spread the word. The worried family made calls to relatives enquiring about her, including to her husband Sunil, staying at Adiyana village of Panipat district, who said she had not returned to his home.

They were not able to trace Naveena on September 27 and 28, after which they informed the police on September 29. In the meantime, Naveena was abducted in a car in broad daylight from Gohana bus stand by the four accused. They took her to Hartadi in Panipat district where she was gangraped for two days.

The Village Sarpanch who belongs to same community as Naveena assisted the family in tracking her. The police, taking the lead from Shravan’s mobile number, nabbed the culprits on September 29.

Three of the accused belongs to same ‘Dhanak’ community. The fourth accused of Sikandara Manjara village belongs to Brahmin community.

We had gone in the daytime, so Naveena was away working in the fields. We were unable to meet her in spite of our efforts, so many unanswered questions remain about the incident.

 

Our Demands:

Protection to the rape survivor, speedy trial, and punishment for those identified by the survivor as the rapists.

 

Sachhakheda case

Sharmila, aged 16 years, committed suicide after being raped by Pradeep and Naveen in broad day light on Oct 6, 2012. The accused were assisted in the crime by Manoj, Meenu (Manoj’s wife) and Sanjeev.

The victim as well as the accused belongs to same Balmiki community.

The Incident

While Sharmila was returning home she was dragged into Manoj’s house, near her own house, by one of the accused, Pradeep. While she was being raped Manoj, Meenu and Sanjeev kept guard.

After the incident the girl later went to her uncle house nearby, poured kerosene on her body and immolated herself. On hearing her screams, the neighbours rushed to the spot and informed the police.

She was taken to Narwana Hospital in police van and was referred to Rohtak hospital. Her statement was recorded by the Magistrate only after much persuasion and delay, before she succumbed to her injuries at the emergency ward of the hospital.

One of the accused Manoj is related to the sitting MLA Prithvi Singh of INLD of Narwana constituency. After the initial lapse the police was able to nab all the accused in the next two days. However, Sharmila’s family was apprehensive that Manoj might escape punishment.

The Sarpanch of Saccha Kheda village, Nirmala, was initially reluctant to discuss the case, leaving it to her husband Ram Bhagat to do the talking. Eventually they both adopted the refrain, “The guilty should be punished but the innocent should not face unjust action,” indicating that in their view Manoj and Meenu are being unjustly accused. But they could not explain what motive Sharmila’s family had to level false accusations on anyone. The Sarpanch’s home had several large photographs and displays dedicated to the Chautala family and the INLD.

As per some news reports the accused have also made advances earlier on Sharmila which was duly informed to the police but no action was taken.

 

Our Demands

  1. 1.     The rapists, as well as those who enabled the rape by preventing the victim’s escape, must be punished severely. 
  2. 2.     Measures must be taken to prevent any of the accused from taking refuge behind political protection. 

 

General Observations and Conclusions

  

The spate of rape cases in Haryana is cause enough for concern. The CM, Bhoopinder Hooda, has said there is nothing alarming about these incidents since they are not unique to Haryana. Sonia Gandhi too has said that the Haryana Government cannot be held responsible for the rapes.

 

However, it is impossible to deny that the Government, as well as the entire ruling establishment including the ruling party and the main Opposition party, are deeply culpable for the rising instances of rapes and other crimes against women.

 

Dharmveer Goyat, one of the spokespersons for the ruling Congress, has declared that 90% of rapes are consensual. In other words, most rape complainants are liars, in his view.

Phool Chand Mulana, Chief of Haryana’s ruling party, the Congress, declared that the rapes are a conspiracy against the Government.

Khap panchayat leaders and former Haryana CM Om Prakash Chautala proposed child marriage as a solution to prevent rape. ‘Child marriage’ – i.e marriage before the age of 16 – is something the khap panchayats have long been demanding. Because marriage in childhood can help achieve their objective of preventing self-choice marriages – that they otherwise seek to achieve through threats of violence and ‘honour’ killings. When Haryana DGP R S Dalal said parents need to keep an eye on the activities of their children, he too is advocating greater surveillance – mainly on the mobility of young girls.

Rape itself is one way of maintaining patriarchal and caste domination through terror. And these reactionary ‘solutions’ for rape only seek to strengthen the patriarchal stranglehold on women.

The fact is that casteist and patriarchal forces are feeling emboldened because they feel that the Haryana Government and the police are with them. The Government and police have time and again protected the perpetrators of ‘honour crimes’ and atrocities against dalits be it at Bhagana, Mirchhpur, or Gohana. And this is undoubtedly a factor in the increasing rapes and other forms of violence on women.

We hear praise from some quarters nowadays for the Haryana Government’s efforts to campaign against sex-selective abortion by roping in the khap panchayats. The khap panchayats have also offered their services in preventing and punishing rape – suggesting that social boycott of rapists would be a deterrent. We believe that such initiatives are dishonest and misleading. Violence against women – be it rape, ‘honour’ crimes or sex-selective abortion – can be resisted and curbed only by measures that safeguard and promote women’s equality and rights and by struggles against patriarchal forces, attitudes, and structures. The solution to crimes against women cannot come from those very patriarchal forces that are the bulwark of sexist and misogynist attitudes.

Rather than claiming to rope in khap panchayats to fight crimes on women, the Haryana Government ought rather to heed the demands of women’s groups, act firmly against the anti-constitutional activities of khap panchayats; and come down hard on any instances of collusion between police forces and khap panchayats or others accused of crimes against women and Dalits.

Dalits meet SC panel on Jats’ wage rule


English: House of Dalit

English: House of Dalit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I P Singh, TNN Jun 18, 2012,

PHAGWARA: Dalit residents of Mahan Singh Wala village in Sangrur district working as farm labourers have approached the Punjab Scheduled Caste Commission after jats not only passed a resolution imposing wages for various menial jobs but also warned them of social boycott if the rules are breached.

The resolution, which reeks of caste-based discrimination, has been passed under the name of the village panchayat. Pamphlets spelling out the rules have been pasted on the walls in the village.

A delegation of dalits led by Dalit Dastaan Virodhi Andolan patron Jai Singh met Punjab SC Commission member Dalip Singh Pandhi here on Sunday. “The commission will issue a notice to Sangrur deputy commissioner seeking a detailed report on the issue. Prima facie it is an objectionable act violating various provisions of the Constitution and a suitable action would be taken soon,” Pandhi told TOI.

Daily wages of women labourers have been fixed at rates lower than men and 10 hours’ work a day has been set for the fair sex. It has also been mandated that if some seeri (permanent labour working for a family for generations) works outside the village, he would face social boycott and will not be given any help during crisis. Even if a seeri meets with an accident or suffers from poisonous inhalation while spraying pesticide/insecticide, he wouldn’t be given any compensation.

“If a seeri is employed on a monthly basis, he would be paid a minimum Rs 5,000 and maximum Rs 6,000 wage and would have to stay at the farmer’s place in the night till the employer wishes,” a condition reads.

Wages for paddy transplantation has been fixed at Rs 1,500 per acre. Notably, even the migrant labourers are charging Rs 2,500 to 3,000 per acre due to shortage of workers.

The resolution points out that that if there is a death in the family of a laagi (lower caste people who do petty jobs), he/she can collect milk door to door but no farmer (read Jat) would take milk to his/her house.

Jai Singh, who led the delegation, said that this resolution was not only seeking to perpetuate caste-based bias but was also a desperate attempt to keep the wages under strict control by using social and economic domination.

Former village Sarpanch Pal Singh and current panchayat member Sukhwinder Singh said this resolution was passed by a group of land owners, and not the elected panchayat.

When contacted, Mahan Singh Wala Numberdar Gurdeep Singh, one of the members who scripted the resolution, admitted that this has been implemented in the village. He revealed that in the neighbouring Khokhar village, such a rule has been enforced.

Small Towns, Big Hearts- Love in Khapland


From social boycotts to betrayals, love can conquer all in the hinterland. TOI-Crest brings you some endearing and enduring tales.

LOVE IN KHAP-LAND
SUKHBIR SIWACH, TNN

It was on the campus of Janta College in Charki Dadri, Bhiwani that Anita Juthera and Shribhagwan Legha met and fell in love. After two years of courtship, Legha was keen to tie the knot. “I love you, marry me, ” he pleaded with her.

Anita, more clued into the complications of gotra taboos among Jats, was hesitant. Both belonged to the Phogat gotra. She came from Makdani and he, Samaspur and they were tied by the rules of gotra fraternity which rules out marriage between Jats of the two villages.

“It’s not possible. The khap will oppose our marriage, ” she told him. But Shribhagwan’s persistence wore her down. “Times have changed. These things don’t matter in a modern society, ” the Jat boy had argued naively.

But Anita’s worst fears came true when the couple declared their love. Legha’s family was harassed by furious villagers egged on by a diktat issued by the Samaspur khap. Their crops were destroyed, their tubewell was damaged, and their home was pelted with stones. The police remained deployed around the Legha home for 10 months to ensure that Shribhagwan’s parents were not harmed.

In the meanwhile, Shribhagwan was recruited as a constable in the Rajasthan Police and Anita got admission to a management course in a Jaipur college. Six years after they befriended each other, the couple got married in Jaipur without telling their families. But word spread and all hell broke lose again.

Shribhagwan ducked calls from his father, Randhir Singh. And Anita was on the run from her panchayat. The couple managed to stay safe but their families bore the brunt of khap rage.

“I was told to get the marriage annulled or leave the village and abandon 40 bighas of our land for the panchayat to dispose of as it pleased, ” says Singh, 62. The Phogat khap announced a social boycott. And so vicious was the khap that Singh’s nephew Raj was fined Rs 5, 200 for daring to talk to his uncle.

The situation took a violent turn on March 4, 2010, the “deadline” for the family to leave the village. Their home was stoned and Randhir Singh and his wife Prem Devi had to lock themselves up in their rooms to escape the mobs. The police team assigned to their protection had to ask for additional forces to tackle the situation.

Three days later, the khap had reasons to rejoice – former Haryana chief minister, Hukum Singh, not only presided over its meeting but also expressed solidarity with the Phogat khap’s efforts to implement its diktat against the couple. The panchayat, attended by 1, 000 villagers, demanded that the girl and the boy be “restored” to their families within a week and divorce proceedings initiated.

Randhir Singh as well as Anita’s father, Azad Singh, a retired army captain, pleaded that they could not carry out the diktat because the couple would not listen to them. A few days later, Hukum Singh distanced himself from the panchayat and the khap relented on its stand that Shribhagwan’s family had to leave the village.

“Many villagers still don’t talk to me, ” says Randhir Singh. The village ex-sarpanch, Surender Singh Phogat, claims that no one is prevented from speaking to the family but “formally, we have not lifted the social boycott as yet”.

Anita, 24, and Shribhagwan, 25, have been married for two years now. But they are still in hiding and their families have no address for them. “Our parents have suffered a lot because of us. We will return to the village but only after we secure good jobs that will prove that our love marriage has been a success, ” says Shribhagwan. The two have cleared the written and physical exams for the recruitment of subinspectors in Rajasthan Police and are busy readying for the interview round.

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