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Sonia’s struggle bears fruit
Villagers to validate her marriage
Raman Mohan
Tribune News Service

Asanda, October 28
The 25-day-old Sonia controversy came to a happy end today with the villagers deciding to validate her marriage to Rampal and accept her back in the village after Sonia’s father publicly swore that he belonged to the Hooda gotra.

The panchayat leaders had gathered at the initiative of Dharam Singh who had chaired the earlier two khap panchayats on this issue which had issued a diktat to Sonia and Rampal to dissolve their marriage and live as siblings. Today’s meeting was attended by the Superintendent of Police, Mr Mohammad Akil. The chief of Dahiya khap, Ramphal, was also present. Sonia’s father had brought along several elderly residents of his native village Kiloi. The SDM of Bahadurgarh, Mr Suraj Bhan, too, attended the proceedings.

The SP initially did not allow the mediapersons to attend the meeting. Later, he allowed them in on the condition that no photographs would be taken and the proceedings would not be telecast live. However, the telecast was allowed once the meeting decided to accept Sonia back and also guarantee her safety.

In the beginning, Rampal told the SP that the khap panchayat’s diktat not only threatened his marriage but also their lives. The SP asked him to submit a written complaint so that he could take legal action against the guilty. However, village elders told Rampal not to complicate the matter further and help them resolve it amicably.

After some deliberations, Sonia’s father, Mr Satvir Singh, a police employee, rose and swore that he belonged to the Hooda gotra and appealed to the villagers to allow Sonia to live in the village peacefully. There were vociferous protests by several young residents of the village who had been canvassing for social boycott of Sonia on her return. But the SP promptly told them to mind their own business. At one stage he even told them they were free to leave the village if that they still had objections. There were no further protests.

Even after the meeting decided to accept Sonia back, Rampal openly expressed fears about his own as well as Sonia’s security. He said that once the police picket was removed, their lives could be in danger. The village elders intervened to say that they would guarantee their personal safety.

Questions were raised over why the khap panchayat had earlier insisted on documentary evidence of Sonia’s Hooda origins if her father’s word was to be taken at its face value. But the SP’s announcement that since the panchayat had accepted Sonia back, she would continue to stay in the village, ended the debate.

Though the meeting has put a lid over the controversy, the root cause of the problem stays. There could be no decision today on whether the Dahiyas could marry in the Rathi families and vice versa. This issue was discussed to rule out any such unsavoury situation in the future. While the Rathis wanted that they should be free to marry the Dahiyas, they insisted that it could not be vice versa. This led to objections and ultimately it was decided that should the two gotras want the ban on such marriages lifted, a panchayat could be convened at a later date.

There was heavy police presence in the village. The Kiloi panchayat had to wait outside the village to ensure that there would be no opposition to its entry to the village. The group came to the venue of the meeting only after they were assured that there would be no trouble at all.

The controversy began on October 10 when a khap panchayat annulled Sonia’s 18-month-old marriage and asked her husband, Rampal, to offer shagun to her to mark the beginning of their new relationship as siblings. Another panchayat was held four days later which asked Sonia’s father to produce documentary evidence of his Hooda origins.

However, the Punjab and Haryana High Court barred the panchayat from interfering with the married life of Rampal and Sonia a week after the controversy broke.


Thanks The Tribune for support
Tribune News Service

Rohtak, October 28
A beaming Sonia today thanked The Tribune for its role in saving her marriage. Speaking from her hospital bed at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences here, she said, “I couldn’t read it, but the doctors and nurses kept me informed of how The Tribune was standing by me all these days. I thank you all on my own and on behalf of my unborn child”, she added.

Sonia also thanked the villagers for reversing their decision. “There must have been some great misunderstanding.

I knew from the beginning that this will be cleared. I can now breathe easy and am looking forward to return to Asanda”, she said.

Meanwhile, the Janwadi Mahila Samiti leader, Mrs Jagmati Sangwan, while welcoming the outcome of today’s meeting said the government should ensure that khap panchayats did not play with the lives of villagers in this manner.

She said the actions of such panchayats were aimed at keeping the progressive forces at bay so that their hegemony was maintained.

The secretary of the Haryana CPM, Mr Inderjit Singh said much of Sonia and Rampal’s trauma could have been avoided had the Jhajjar administration acted firmly when the controversy arose.

He said the police should have done what it did today three weeks back.

The CPM leader demanded that the Centre and the states enact legislation to ban these panchayats.

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