New Delhi: Gaurav Saini has been running from pillar to post for the past one year in desperate search for the woman he loves, and married, against her family’s wishes. Just days after their secret wedding in July last year, Gaurav – who belongs to a lower caste – was forcibly separated from Monica Dagar – a Jat from western Uttar Pradesh. Gaurav was charged with kidnapping, thrown into jail and tortured for days. He never saw Monica again; her family claims she’s dead but Gaurav doesn’t buy it.
“They were afraid that if Monica is allowed to stay with me, she would transfer her property in my name (Inhe ye darr tha ki agar humne inki baat maan li aur Monica ko Gaurav ke saath rehne diya ki ye zameen hamare haath se nikal jaye kyunki Monica ke naam bhi zameen thi),” he said. Scores of couples in North India routinely suffer this fate. But what they’re subjected to in the name of caste, according to several activists, is often driven by economic considerations. They’re threatened, hounded and sometimes cruelly separated in many cases. And sometimes, brutally killed.
“There’s this lurking fear that if the girl can make her own choice and get married into another caste, then she will perhaps also come back and claim her property rights. Often it’s not about getting married into a lower caste, it’s about the land getting disintegrated and going to other people,” said Ravi Kant, Lawyer and Activist, Shakti Vahini.
And it’s not confined to families alone, land and property are often the driving factor for Khap panchayats and their diktats. While caste remains a key issue for many families, many landed families striking gold in lucrative land deals now don’t want to lose a share of the property pie, which is another reason for young couples being victimized and terrorised in the name of family and community honour.