M A I N   N E W S

Issue of Sonia’s origin becomes explosive
Opposing groups asked to provide evidence
Raman Mohan
Tribune News Service

Asanda (Jhajjar), October 14
Even as Sonia continued to battle for the life of her unborn child in a Rohtak hospital, a nationally televised farce of a panchayat on her fate was enacted here today. At the end of the two-hour-long drama, self-styled panchayat leaders from the area rudely told the delegation from Sonia’s village Kiloi to provide “credible revenue record” by October 24 to prove that she comes from a Hooda family.

The only bright side of the proceeding was that its chairperson, Dharam Singh, added a rider saying the Asanda panchayat should also simultaneously provide similar evidence to prove Sonia’s Rathi origins.

Interestingly, the main characters in the drama, which was televised live, were all outsiders in the sense that although Sonia’s husband, Rampal, was present in his house located next door to the chaupal where the panchayat met, neither he nor any of his family members were asked to come and have their say.

The participants from Asanda were mainly idlers in the age group of 25 to 40 years. Most of the village elders who command some respect in the area either stayed away or sat on the sidelines awestruck by the massive TV OB vans parked in the chaupal compound. Ironically, though the Asanda group asked for government record to prove Sonia’s gotra, no official of the Jhajjar administration was present there to question the legality of the panchayat or to ensure peace. There was not a single policeman in the vicinity of the village though at several stages a clash between the two groups appeared imminent.

The proceedings did not begin till the TV crews had set the stage. At the outset someone from the crowd objected to the telecast of the proceedings and at one stage the TV crews were asked to move outside the chaupal. But they were allowed in with the intervention of the locals.

Speaking on behalf of the Kiloi delegation, Jasbir Hooda, former sarpanch, and Dharambir Hooda, BKU leader, insisted that Sonia was a Hooda girl. They pleaded that instead of going deeper into the gotra issue, the panchayat should look at the ground realities and view it from a humanitarian angle. But every time someone from Kiloi voiced similar sentiments, the rowdies in the opposite camp shifted focus to the gotra issue.

After everybody had his say, an eerie silence prevailed. The stalemate ended with Dharam Singh pronouncing the verdict.

‘Rampal said he would divorce Sonia’

Dharam Singh, who chaired the khap panchayat here on Sunday, today backtracked and denied that the panchayat had asked Rampal and Sonia to divorce and become brother and sister.

Talking to mediapersons after today’s impromptu panchayat, he said it was Rampal who had submitted in writing that since Sonia was a Rathi, he would divorce her and treat her as his sister henceforth.

However, he could not explain why nine representatives of the panchayat were despatched to Rampal’s house to be witnesses to the ceremony of Rampal offering shagun to Sonia by pronouncing her as his sister.

Dharam Singh maintained that he was looking for an amicable solution to the problem. “I can’t say what the panchayat will decide, but my effort will be to ensure that no one suffers from a mistake that may have been committed in this case”, he added.

However, Rampal said he had been forced to sign the divorce papers and offer shagun to Sonia. Both he and his mother, Moorti Devi, sobbingly told The Tribune that one of the panchayat representatives even slapped Sonia and pulled her pallu from her head. However, Sonia bluntly told them that they could kill her but she would never accept Rampal as a brother.

Sonia’s family treated as Hooda clan

Sonia’s fate is hinged to an incident that took place in her parental village, Kiloi, 400 years ago when a young girl, Beero, daughter of Umed Singh Hooda, was married to a Rathi in a nearby village and was resettled in Kiloi itself after she was widowed and remarried to her dead husband’s younger brother. Sonia is a descendant of Beero.

Members of the Kiloi delegation which participated in a panchayat at Asanda today said that though normally daughters are not settled in their parental village after their marriage, an exception was made in Beero’s case as she had saved her father from a murderous attack on him while she was visiting her parents.

The entire village decided to bring her to Kiloi and ask her to settle down there. When Beero pointed out that this could create problems later on, the village panchayat decided to accept her as a Hooda. For four centuries, Sonia’s family was treated as a Hooda clan and no objections were ever raised till Sunday last.

Though, Asanda’s Rathis agreed with their version, but dismissed it all the same saying the bloodline was still that of Rathis since Beero was married to a Rathi.

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