Haryana panchayat takes on govt over same-gotra marriage

As the 72-hour deadline given to 23-year-old Ravinder Gehlawat's family to leave Dhrana village in Jhajjar district expired on Sunday morning, tension gripped the area after angry villagers threw stones when the police stopped them from accosting the family. As many as 500 policemen have been stationed in the village after the incident.

This isn't the first time that the same-gotra marriage dispute has come to the fore in Haryana. But this is a rare occasion when the collective panchayat (known as khap) is in direct confrontation with not only with the boy's family but also with the administration.

Earlier last week, Ravinder's entire clan was told to leave their native village of Dhrana, as their son had married 20-year-old Shilpa Kadiyan of Siwah village near Panipat. He was accused of violating a custom which the panchayat feels is sacrosanct, i.e. there can be no matrimony between the sects of Gehlawat and Kadiyan as they have a "brotherhood" akin to consanguinity. The Gehlawat family was given an ultimatum to leave the village, bag and baggage, within 72 hours. There is a penalty of Rs 21,000 on any other villager who dares to talk or help them in any manner.

Rohtas Singh, father of Ravinder, says, "We had decided to leave on Friday. But then I got a call from Ravinder who asked us to wait for two hours. He drove all the way back from Delhi where he works as a driver with a call centre. When he reached here, he told us that he had consumed camphor tablets to save us from misery. As of now, he is struggling with his life." The condition of Ravinder, admitted to the main hospital in Rohtak, is described as stable, but doctors have kept him under observation for 72 hours.

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