Friday, February 14, 2014

Into the JATland

During the past few years, marriages within ‘gotra’ (clan) of the Jat community have come into the limelight. Frequently, those couples who have eloped have been brutally murdered by the dictates of the elders—these are known as ‘honor killings’. Many such incidents have occurred in Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh and the rural belt of Delhi.
I was in the Jatland of Jhajjar, a small town around 100 kms from Delhi. Around 80% of the honor killings reported are done in and around Jhajjar. I decided to know more about the place and their rituals and specifically about Khap.
Khap Panchayats are basically found in two communities in Northern India, Jats and Gujjars. These communities were considered to be non-elite and basically were indulged in agriculture and herding. There used to be rule of Muslim rulers in area around Haryana and Delhi. So, a committee was developed in Jats community which used to solve local issues. So, several Khaps developed in Haryana for each village and area. The heads were elderly members of their castes. From centauries they have solved the issues of local people. So, it doesn’t come to surprise that even after their few orders of honor killing when Hayana CM Bhoopendra Hooda tells that Khaps are like NGOs who are working for the society no one dares a question.
But after the Independence, Government of India has introduced the system of Gram Panchayat where people are selected by people in a democratic way. Khaps heads are still selected by the various caste people and only Jats are involved in their administration activities.
Apart from giving Honor killing decisions, they are also in criticism when they say girls should be stopped wearing Jeans and using mobiles as it increases their chance of getting raped. When a Dalit girl was raped by few Jat men, instead of condemning the incident they said girls should be married early.

I tried to find about their honor and their story by visiting one of the villages in the area. I asked one of my Jat friends to accompany me to the village Jharli. As we entered the village, we met Chaudhary Balwant Singh Jakhar, an elderly figure of the community in white Kurta Payzama and a turban on his head smoking Hookah, the water pipe which is often attached with pride of a person in Haryana. It means when a person is out cast, it is said to stop his hookah-pani in the village.
So, he told us that Jats settlement in the region is as told as 800 years old. After Mohammad Gori defeated Prithviraj Chauhan, Jats had fought the battle from Prithviraj side. They got scattered and settled in the regions of Haryana like Jhajjar, Rohtak. So the people of the region often refer their ancestors from Prithviraj Clan. After that the region came under Mughals region and therefore, Jats instead of going to Emperor formed a Panchayat in their own caste which used to solve their issues.
But now, Khap Panchayat has gone very far. Instead of just civil cases which they used to resolve, they are giving death sentences to love birds who are marrying outside their Caste or even marrying in their own gotra. Whenever any such incident is reported, there comes a demand of banning the Khap-Panchyat but due to their political reasons. None of the politicians dares to interfere between Khaps and common people.
When I was roaming in the countryside of Haryana, a person told me an amazing story about a couple of the same region. There are many instances when a lover has created a memorial for their lady love. But here is the story of a girl who immortalized her lover's memory. The Bua ka talab (Bua's pond) located outside Jhajjar town stands testimony to the legendary love story of Bua and Hasan that happened about 375 years ago. The duo were buried in the graveyard just at the edge of this historic pond.

According to lore, love blossomed between a high class girl, Bua, daughter of Mustafa Khan, a bureaucrat who worked under the ruler of Jhajjar, and Hasan Khan, a poor wood-cutter on a moonlight night in 1635. Bua, a teenaged girl was beautiful and brave and often used to go horse riding in the evening. One evening she came face to face with a tiger in a nearby jungle. Though she fought the tiger but when she got injured, she shouted for help. Hearing her shout, Hasan rushed to the spot and killed the beast with his axe. Bua impressed with the strong and handsome Hasan fell in love with him. Hasan took the injured Bua to her home. An indebted family asked him to stay in their guest room for the night. That night Bua went to Hasan's room to express her feelings. The next morning when Hasan was departing, Bua's parents wanting to honour him asked for his wish and he expressed her desire to marry Bua. Her indebted parents, promised to fullfill his desire, though unwillingly. After that Hasan and Bua used to meet at a pond on the outskirts of the town. Though Mustafa had promised, he was unwilling to marry off Bua to Hasan due to his poverty. It is said that Mustafa sent Hasan in a battle as a soldier, knowing that his side was set to lose. Hasan was killed in that battle. Bua performed her lover's last rites near the same pond they used to meet at. She built a tomb in the memory of her lover and also concretized the pond. 'On moonlit nights, Bua used to sit alone through the night shedding tears in Hasan's memory. She too breathed her last two years after Hasan died and was buried beside Hasan's tomb.
The pond and the tombs located outside Jhajjar town on Bahadurgarh road stand testimony of their love. Stories like these have kept the love alive where daily some khaps are trying to kill them for their honor.

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