The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Couple told to become siblings

Chandigarh, Oct. 13: Couple yesterday, siblings today.

A happily married couple in Haryana has been told to regard each other as brother and sister by a council of similar caste villages which decreed their marriage was unacceptable on social grounds.

In Sunday's bizarre ruling in Asanda, Jhajjar, near Delhi, a Rathee khap panchayat ordered Rampal and Sonia, who is three-months pregnant, to terminate their marriage of one-and-a-half years.

The panchayat, comprising elders from three villages, said there was 'bhaichara' (brotherhood) between members of Rampal's gotra Dahiya (a sub-caste in the Jat community) and Sonia's Rathee gotra.

The unwritten social code in the state forbids them from marrying each other, the elders ruled. The 'sin' could be undone only if they accepted each other as siblings. That Sonia was happily married to Rampal and was even carrying his child had no effect on the elders, who said they delayed the decision because of 'confusion' over Sonia's gotra.

Sonia has reportedly said she would prefer death to accepting her husband as a brother. She claims she belongs to the Hooda clan ' a sub-caste whose members can tie the knot with a Dahiya ' as her father, Satvir Singh, used the surname. She has also refused to accept a Rs 10 note from Rampal as acceptance of the decree.

But Rampal, whose gotra is in a minority in the village, has buckled under pressure. 'I have no choice. I am with the panchayat as of now,' he said. But his three sisters support Sonia, who has left the village to stay with one of them till a solution is thrashed out.

Sonia's father said he would approach the court. 'We are not living in the age of cannibals. They cannot wreck my daughter's life,' Satvir, a policeman, said.

Sources said the state could not intervene as no FIR had been lodged.

Four years ago, a similar khap panchayat in Jaundhi village had ordered a woman to tie a rakhi on her husband, though the couple had an 18-month-old son. Their sin was they had married in the same sub-caste. The couple fled the village. They have not returned.

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