Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 33, Dated August 21, 2010
FREEDOM TO LOVE
‘Who the hell is the Khap to tell us to split up?’
BY BRIJESH PANDEY
RAVINDER SINGH is 25, sports a beard and walks with a swagger. He works in the transport business and has a surfeit of Haryanvi machismo, till you mention Shilpa to him. Shilpa and he have been married a year. Ostracised, their marriage declared incestuous, both have faced the tribulations of a medieval epic together. But mentioning the name of his 20-year-old bride still makes Ravinder redden.
It takes great persuasion to get him even talking about how he and Shilpa met. It was two years ago, when he had gone to Panipat for some work. What work he doesn’t remember now, but he saw her in passing and was instantly hooked for life. He had thought that parents from both the sides would object to his impulse and insist on a more sedately arranged alliance. To his surprise they didn’t object. They were from different villages, their gotras were different (Ravinder, a Gehlot, Shilpa a Kadyan) and all was well.
With this small familial revolution behind him, Ravinder had no idea that his marriage was still going to make international headlines. The wedding was held on 24 April 2009 in Bawana in Outer Delhi at his uncle’s house and went off without a hitch. The first month after the wedding went off like a dream for the newly-weds. But then news of their wedding reached Ravinder’s village in Jhajjhar, Haryana, and all hell broke loose.
Suddenly there was talk of throwing Ravinder’s family, who had been living there for generations, out of the village. To turn them into outcasts within 72 hours. People, who till the day before were Ravinder’s chacha and tau, were now on the other side of the fence. “I was shocked. The majority of the village was up in arms against my marriage,” says Ravinder. “Imagine, panchayats from 12 villages gathered and declared that my wedding was illegal. Imagine that. They said that since both Gehlots and Kadyans had been in the village for generations, I could not marry a Kadyan girl. We could only be brother and sister. I was so angry I can’t tell you. I refused to obey the panchayat’s orders to divorce.”
When Ravinder’s family refused to toe the diktat of the panchayats of 12 villages, the larger Khap panchayat was called. The Khap, after its deliberations, decided that though nobody would say a thing to the extended family, the couple would have to leave the village and never return.
Ravinder and Shilpa agreed. “They thought they would be able to pressurise me but I refused to take it lying down,” says Ravinder. “I was ready to leave the village but not her. And if both our families were happy then who the hell is the panchayat?”
The couple now live in Bawana. Ravinder does not like to talk about his suicide attempt at a point when it looked like the Khaps would never let them live.
Shilpa pipes in for the first time, “Our marriage had an ideal start but the decision of the panchayat ruined things for us. Not that it had any effect on our marriage itself, but it did spoil things. We haven’t done anything wrong but we have been ostracised. He has not gone to his village since then. I know he longs to go, but he can’t.”
Looking lovingly at Shilpa, Ravinder adds, “The Khaps have done what they had to do. They are just playing politics. But looking after her and giving her all the happiness in life is my aim. I won’t let a Khap or its diktats enter my marriage and ruin it.”
PHOTO: VIJAY PANDEY