CHANDIGARH: The recent case of shameful killing of a 21-year-old, who went to Singhwal, 165 km from here, to bring his wife home after the court had ordered that she be freed from her parents’ illegal custody, is a proof of the supremacy of Khap Panchayats over law and police. Ved Pal Mor, who was lynched by villagers of Singhwal for marrying a girl of his Gotra, had the quiet assurance of having the might of law behind him, which did not measure up to the powerful caste Panchayat.
Ved, who practised medicine in Singhwal village, had fallen in love with Sonia, a local girl, however, her parents arranged her marriage with another youth. About a week before the wedding, they eloped and got married but the khap Panchayat of Banwala gotra, objected to their alliance on the grounds that the two villages shared boundary and there was ‘bhaichara’ (brotherhood) between them. In a fiendish display of authority the khap (caste) Panchayat, on March 20 issued a directive to kill the couple and save the honour of the community, prompting the youth to approach the court. The couple, who had started living in Matour village, was provided protection but the khap managed to separate the duo and bring the girl to her parents home about a month back, where she was kept in ‘illegal confinement’.
Ved took legal recourse and armed with a High Court order and accompanied by policemen, he had gone to his in-laws’ house where around 400 people attacked him. His body was placed on the main road for hours, before the administration removed it on Thursday morning. Police denies allegations of inaction by the victim’s family; Jind SP Satish Balan said on Thursday, ‘‘As soon as the team reached the village, Pal disappeared in the dark. By the time the policemen spotted him again, he was being thrashed by a mob.” He added that a case has been registered against the girl’s parents and 12 other villagers on the complaint of the warrant officer.
In Haryana, especially rural areas, caste Panchayats hold great influence and almost dictate social life and prohibit marriage within the same Gotra. A Gotra is the lineage or clan assigned to a Hindu at birth. Marriages within the gotra are banned as people within the gotra are regarded as kin and marrying such a person would be thought of as incest. According to All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) Haryana and Punjab alone account for 10 per cent of all honour killings in the country
One reason for the increased visibility of such crimes is the trend of more and more girls joining educational institutions, meeting others from different backgrounds and castes and establishing relationships beyond the confines of caste and community.
There is no category of crime, where parents kill their children for marrying the wrong person, in government records and there is refusal even to recognise this phenomenon. Data for such incidents are seldom available and they would mostly be classified under the category of general crimes. Unlike the recent cases where the police protection fled the victim, such cases do not gather media attention and often go unreported where first information reports (FIRs) are not filed and post-mortems are never conducted.
The worst part of the incident is that three days after Ved Pal was lynched by a mob, the police have failed to arrest the accused though they claim to have identified those involved in the crime. Also no action has been taken against the policemen who fled the spot only Narwana’s SHO has been suspended for failing to protect the life of the boy despite court orders. The state’s illegal khap Panchayats have also been doling out extra-judicial rulings to couples for violating social norms in getting married. The local administration, police and politicians also keep away from such killings and illegal decisions of community Panchayats, given the domination of the Jat community in the state.
The body, which the villagers had left on the road, has been cremated and around 100 policemen have been deployed in the two villages as authorities suspect that Sonia could be the next target.