Jat leaders of a village in Uttar Pradesh's Baghpat district have denied a khap panchayat was ever convened and said no diktat was issued that two Dalit sisters be raped and paraded naked as revenge for their brother's action of eloping with a married woman from their community.
The denial comes in the face of an outcry over the 'diktat' which prompted one of the Dalit sisters to move the Supreme Court, seeking protection for herself and her family.
The Jat leaders claim that no khap panchayat was ever convened in the village which has remained comparatively calm.
"It is the handiwork of those who want to malign the khaps," said Chaudhary Jitendra Singh, head of the Dhama khap, to which Jats in Sakrond belong to, of 306 villages.
"I went to Sakrond two months ago to attend a funeral. I have not been there since. I came to know about the issue through the media," claimed Singh, who suggested the Dalit family should apologise for maligning the khaps.
He said otherwise the issue would be taken up in order to safeguard the honour of the entire khap.
Former village head Indrapal, a resident Pradhan Bala Devi and Dharamveer, a Dalit, also refuted the claims that a khap panchayat was convened in the village on the issue. Baghpat district police chief Sharad Sachan too said no panchayat was called and hoped the matter would be resolved through dialogue.
Chaudhary Jitendra Singh and other villagers have accused Lokesh Dixit, the Bahujan Samaj Party MLA from Baraut, of politicising the issue on caste lines.
"We will not allow them to breach the peace in the village."
As for the Dalits, they seldom speak out in these parts.
"We are labourers and largely dependent on them (the Jats) for our living. How can we oppose them," said one refusing to be named.
Earlier, the Dalit woman's advocate Vivek Singh had told HT, "On July 30, the Jat community held a khap panchayat and decided to avenge the dishonour. The petitioner has been condemned to be raped and paraded naked after blackening their faces only because her brother fell in love and eloped with her friend. The family can never return."
According to the woman, her brother and the girl were in love for the past three years. The girl, however, was married off to a Jat boy against her wishes in February this year.
A month after her marriage, the girl eloped with the petitioner's brother. But, after alleged torture by the girl's family members and UP police the couple surrendered. While the girl, who said she was pregnant with her lover's child, was sent back to her parents, the boy was arrested under a false drug case.
Under threat, the family moved to Delhi after which their house in the native place was allegedly ransacked and taken over by the Jat community.
The Dalit man's father Dharampal claims he got back the possession of his home only after the police intervened. His son was granted bail on June 25 but he did not file the papers to bring him out of jail as the family feels he is safer in prison.