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Khap panchayat bans celebrations
Raman Mohan and Deepender

Jaundhi, December 2
The rehabilitation process of a couple exiled from this village four years ago by a khap panchayat because of a gotra controversy over their marriage was derailed late this evening when the panchayat decided to challenge the petition they had filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking rehabilitation.

The couple, Aashish and Darshana, had returned to the village on Divali eve after a meeting of the panchayat, held under the supervision of the Superintendent of Police last month, decided to allow them to live outside the village phirni (the boundary demarcating the residential area). They were later allowed to live in their ancestral house in the village.

The panchayat today ruled: “Since great injustice had been done to the village, the panchayat should seek justice from the court itself, but it would not oppose the orders of the court and the district administration”. But at the same time it decided that “no festival should be celebrated in the village till justice was done”. It also decided to collect Rs 50 each from every household in the village to meet the legal expenses.

The panchayat was chaired by Mr Vinod, husband of village’s former sarpanch Pushpa, who had recently resigned in the wake of the controversy. About 100 villagers attended the meeting. The panchayat set up a panel comprising five members each from the Dagar and Gehlawat gotras. After some deliberations the panel announced these measures.

Though the panchayat worded its verdict carefully to avoid possible contempt proceedings, its decision today that “the brotherhood of the two gotras in the village be maintained” effectively means opposing the couple’s resettlement in the village as this so-called brotherhood can only be maintained by refusing to accept their marriage and not allowing them to live there.

Both Aashish and Darshana were conspicuous by their absence from the meeting of the panchayat. It could not be ascertained if they were in the village or not.

Mr Vinod told The Tribune after the meeting that the villagers had walked out of the last panchayat meeting that had asked the couple to live outside the village phirni. He asserted the village community had refused to accept that verdict. Asked if today’s development would effectively mean that the couple returned to Delhi where it had been living for four years, he said, “The villagers will not oppose the orders of the court or the district administration”.

Incidentally, after the meeting of the last panchayat held on November 9, Mr Jagdish Singh of the Gehlawat khap and Mr Narain of the Dagar khap had openly stated that the couple would be allowed to live outside the phirni only if they withdrew their petition.

Ashish and Darshana were married in 1998. While Ashish comes from a Dagar family, Darshana’s gotra is Gehlawat. Dagars are in minority in the village. Two years after their marriage, a khap panchayat was convened, which exiled them from the village for life. Ashish’s family was ostracised for two years. The couple had a one-year-old son at that time. Since then the couple had been living in a Delhi suburb. Ashish’s father died during this period and he had to be escorted to the village by the police to perform his last rites.

Meanwhile, the Additional Deputy Commissioner, Jhajjar, has issued notices to the couple and other villagers to attend his office tomorrow to discuss the issue.


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