Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Thursday, April 18, 2013

'HOME INCEST', HARYANA'S SHAMEFUL SOCIAL HERITAGE

By CJ Aaradhya Ahuja in NCR

It was a national debate on a news channel. Tempers were running high, so were the decibels. The subject was explosive - Haryana's khaps and their diktats. In the midst of this charged atmosphere, a voice rose above the rest, silencing them all. Seema, a law graduate and resident of Karora village, made an allegation that changed the course of the debate. Her brother had been executed for marrying a woman from the same gotra, but that was not what Seema wanted to talk about on the primetime show. It was another shameful reality of Haryana villages she wanted to expose - incest.

"Khaps should look into their homes before passing fatwas on lovers and crying hoarse about honour. Incest is rampant in the state and virtually every home is affected. Where is the honour anyway ?" she screamed.


Early this week, the state was shocked when a pregnant girl was strangled by her parents and her body dumped on the outskirts of Bahadurgarh in Jhajjar district. Her crime: she was reportedly having an affair with her brother-in-law and her vengeful elder sister had complained to their parents.

In another embarrassing case earlier this year, a farmer in his early 50s developed a sexual relation with his 30-year-old daughter-in-law in a village in Kaithal district. Their liaison continued for almost a year. The matter even reached the village panchayat, which ordered separation of the two unlikely partners so that the woman could go back to her husband.

And only last month, Sonepat was jolted by the gruesome murder of two minor girls, just 12 and 14. They were killed and their bodies flung in a canal by their uncles and grandmother after their "affair" with a cousin was exposed. The police said the kin of the victims were enraged when they allegedly caught the minors getting intimate with their cousin. In Yamunanagar, a girl complained to the police that her father-in-law had raped her just a few months after her marriage.

These are not isolated incidents: incest is reportedly a real part of life in rural Haryana. "It's a menace nobody wants to talk about. Even the elders are setting a bad example, " says D R Chaudhary, member of the Haryana Administrative Reforms Commission. The elders, predictably, blame this perversion on the growing sway of the west over the state's youth.

When Kurukshetra-based Ramesh Kumar's daughter married a close relative, he blamed it on urban influence. Now he is fighting a legal battle to have the marriage declared null and void, terming it a contravention of the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The mothers of the newly-wed couple were apparently related, being granddaughters of the same person.

The incidence of incest may be higher in rural areas. "Social mores in villages are different. People here are very conservative and there is no scope for interaction between men and women and boys and girls outside their homes. So, they often end up having relationships with members of their accessible, extended family, " says Balbir Singh, a social activist in Fatehabad district.

Experts believe that such relationships have survived behind closed doors for many years. But given the modern means of communication and the proliferation of the media, the skeletons are now tumbling out of family cupboards.

The youth, interestingly, believe that incest is a traditional practice and not a new reality. "Yeh to hame virasat mein mili hai (incest is a part of our tradition), " says Naresh Kumar, a villager in Rohera in Kaithal district. Sociologists, in turn, say that the ethnic history of the region is full of such instances.

"In the pre-Independence era, in some parts of north India, the father-in-law almost had the right to physical relations with a daughter-in-law, and in most cases the female was not in a position to resist much. The very young husband also had no say in the matter. Widows would routinely be married to a brother of the dead husband. Sharing of the wife by brothers was also not uncommon, " says Ravinder Kaur, a professor at IIT-Delhi.

What adds to this problem in Haryana is its skewed sex ratio caused by rampant female foeticide. "Its effects are now being felt on intimate relationships within and without the family. The shortage of marriageable women can have many unintended consequences, especially when only one out of four men find a bride (as in the case of Haryana) in their own community, " adds Kaur.

Kumar's 35-year-old nephew, Roshan, is yet to get any offers for marriage. "We are at a loss, wondering what to do, " says Kumar. A growing army of bachelors has become a problem in the state, leading to more illicit relations.
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