When Kalpana Chawla, originally from Karnal in Haryana, went to space neither the then state chief minister, Om Prakash Chautala, nor the US-educated Congress MP Navin Jindal, nor any Khap Panchayat (Caste Council) condemned her for marrying not only outside the caste, but a person of different faith, colour and civilization. Though she was a US citizen, she was praised to the sky as India’s one of the greatest achievers. And, when she tragically died while on her return journey, there was naturally no murmur about her marital status, religion, etc. Everyone in the country started owning her.
Similarly, when Sunita Willaims, sometimes after achieving the feat in space, came to her ancestor’s place in Gujarat, the anti-Christian – needless to say anti-Muslim – chief minster Narendra Modi was among those who greeted her. She was accorded warm welcome in the state and Modi did not inquire about her and her spouse’s religion. She too was hailed as the daughter of Gujarat though her parents had left the state long back.
In the same way, when the present Bihar deputy chief minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, despite having the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and BJP background, married Jessie George in Mumbai many years ago, nobody ever bothered to publicly punish him nor was his parents expelled from the society though his party openly espouses the cause of Hindutva and cultural nationalism. The BJP leaders instead cited his example to show how liberal they are.
So be it the Bharatiya Janata Party, Indian National Lok Dal, Indian National Congress or any other party none condemned such marriages. Instead they all applaud the ‘liberal approach’ of the Hindu religion and its capacity to absorb variety of cultures.
There are innumerable examples of inter-caste, intra-gotra (clan), inter-religion, intra-village marriages among our elite but no one ever dared to touch them. Om Prakash Chautala, even while in the NDA, never sought amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act nor was Navin Jindal ever compelled by Khap Panchayats to support ban on intra-gotra marriages. Not to speak of that, none of the above gentlemen questioned Sachin Pilot, a Union Minister from neighbouring Rajasthan, for marrying a Muslim.
Yet what has suddenly prompted them to raise the demand of amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act 55 years after it was enacted. Why have the Jats of Haryana and adjoining states in particular – and other castes in general – suddenly become so sensitive about the intra-gotra, intra-village and inter-caste marriage or any other marriage by choice.
Why have the lesser mortals to pay so dearly for the ‘crime’ so rampantly committed by the elite of the same community? It is up to those who are championing the cause who need to answer such questions. The shocking fact is that it is not only a former chief minister, but even a former DGP of Haryana, and many other so-called intellectuals, who are justifying the diktats of Khap Panchayats. Such caste councils not only indulge in lynching, killing or burning alive the newly wed couples who marry on their own wish but also publicly punish the father and ordering the gang-rape or naked parading of mother. The parents, especially of low caste boy marrying a high caste girl, are the worst sufferer – they are thrown out of their village for the ‘crime’ their son committed.
The irony is that recent survey said that 77 per cent of respondents of Haryana, one of the so-called most developed states, opposed the intra-gotra marriage. The figure for Chandigarh, the common capital of Haryana and other prosperous state, the Punjab, is 65 per cent.
Do these places then deserve to be called developed? No, many people living there are mentally travelling centuries back. The phenomenon is not confined to Haryana, the Punjab, outskirts of Delhi and west UP, but to all the affluent pockets of India. If in Haryana, the Punjab, West UP and Rajasthan people are busy in killing their own youngsters and not allowing girl child to be born, in Mumbai and adjoining cities the so-called Sainiks relish in harassing, beating, maiming and killing people from other states. And the other so-called state of high growth rate, Gujarat, has the distinction of carrying out witch-hunting against minorities.
All these places have their own quota of backward-looking, short-sighted hypocrites. The more the country is ‘progressing’ the more backward these sets of people are going.
The problem is that our academics and media have faulty definition of development. They call all these regions developed when the fact is that many people in this region are in the age of barbarians.
Herein lies the crux of the matter. In the capitalist-driven development geography plays a very important role. Places near the capital cities, for example, Haryana and West UP in our case, or on the vibrant western coast of the country, are bound to grow. So a large section of people in the vicinity of Delhi and Mumbai as well as Gujarat have got prospered by default. They made no effort whatsoever yet their land and house price jumped many times. They do not have to migrate thousands of kilometres and do hard work for their livelihood or survival. Everything comes handy for them. Besides, they become arrogant because their states or regions are being showered with praise for being developed. So be it the Green Revolution in Sutlej, Yamuna and Ganga belt or the industrial revolution in coastal region in Gujarat and Mumbai all are possible by the toil and labour of the people from outside. Yet the locals take the credit and are dubbed hard-working and diligent, while the fact is just the opposite. They tend to become arrogant, feudal-minded, short-sighted and intolerant.
In such a stagnant society there is every scope for the growth of all sorts of Sainiks and Caste Panchayats. Since their stomachs are not empty, they do not need to think about the future.
Since the regions where they are living have ‘progressed’ when mentally they are travelling back, possibility of the growth of social conflict increases.
With prosperity and general development of the region come to home of these outdated feudal minded people the television sets, mobiles, inter-net and other means of communication. All these tools are enough to give boost to the marriages by choice. This naturally infuriates them. Falling back to religion, custom, tradition and romantic idea of panchayats, they started organising kangaroo courts to pass judgement against such practices.
Curiously, when all these forces were getting stronger in different parts of the country, our men and women in media were busy in debating the plight of women in Afghanistan or some so-called fatwa by someone in Deoband. It is not for nothing that when a man killed his 19-year old daughter and her mother-in-law in Amritsar because she married on her own, the premier most channel of India, CNN-IBN was debating the fatwa issued by Deoband in its prime time 10:00 PM programme.
Now when the so-called honour killings have become so rampant, some sections in media or government have started realising the gravity of the situation. But by then it seems to be too late and many lives have been lost.