Their decision defies logic, but their words are the law of the land. A mahapanchayat of 21 villages in Rewari district on Sunday issued a diktat to the families of a couple married in the same gotra to disown the two or face social boycott.
The reason: the two, the mahapanchayat said, were "siblings" and had committed a "heinous crime" by tying the knot. "We cannot allow it. It sends out the wrong message," Ishwar Singh, the head of the committee formed to look into the matter, said, while talking to families of the two on Sunday.
The mahapanchayat also announced that, apart from the families, if anyone from the villages under the mahapanchayat came in contact with the two or gave them money or medicine in case of an emergency, then, they too would face social boycott.
It also said that the couple would not be allowed any share in their family properties, though it is a right guaranteed by the law.
The mahapanchayat of the villages in Kohl block of Rewari had earlier summoned the families of the couple on September 21. But they did not appear before it.
The couple, Bhagirath, 29, and his wife, Sunita, 25, belong to the same village and had fallen in love in college. They got married on April 24 last year, against the wishes of their families. They also have a child from the wedlock.
All was well till the couple settled in Jaipur celebrated their daughter's birthday in August. A person from the village who attended the party came to know of their background, and informed the matter to village elders.
Following this, a meeting was called on September 21, which the two families did not attend. And on Sunday, when the meeting of the mahapanchayat was called again: initially no one from Bhagirath's and Sunita's family turned up. But the mahapanchayat demanded their presence and the families had to comply. They, however, came amid heavy deployment of police personnel.
While Sunita works for the army, Bhagirath is an advocate. They have now approached the Rajasthan high court for police security.
Bhagirath's grandfather, Banwari Lal, a retired army personnel, told the mahapanchayat that the boy's father had expired in 1991, and he, and other family members, had objected to the alliance, but the two did not listen to them.
Even Sunita's father, Karan Yadav, had the same explanation. The two men were forced to then announce to publicly disown the couple.
While the committee members kept gunning for the two, none had a logical reason behind their decision. One of them, however, finally spoke up: "It is not in our tradition. We have to set an example."
'Men decide for women'
Surprisingly, no women were allowed to participate in the mahapanchayat, including the four members of the village panchayat and women of the couple's family.
Asked about their absence, Panchayat members were more than forthcoming. "Women are never part of panchayat decisions. They have to follow what men decide," said a member.