Vrinda Sharma Karori(Haryana): Chandrapati Berwal (55), widow and mother of four, the first women in Haryana to have fought a legal battle against the influential khap panchayats after the honour killing of her son and daughter-in-law in 2007, has lend hope to other victims and taught a lesson to the panchayats. After conviction of Babli’s relatives on Tuesday for murder of Babli and Manoj, Chandrapti traces her ordeal, “I faced threats, abuse and social boycott by the rest of the village. For the last three years, my life has been at a standstill. I had convinced myself that I would not be able to move on till my son got justice,” Chandrapati said. Talking to The Hindu, over the phone from village Karora in Kaithal district she said that she did not intend to teach a lesson to the panchayat but she wanted to feel closure after her son’s brutal death. Despite pressure from the khap panchayat she filed a complaint with the police and approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court for justice, “Those days we got support only from some activists who stood by us despite having no clout in the state politics,” she said. Karora's Pradhan Dharamveer, who heads the local panchayat, refused to entertain any questions on the verdict. Mange Ram Gurdara, sarpanch of village Jalllopur, near Rohtak, said that panchayats are to amicably resolve issues to avoid courts cases but no panchayat has the right to give death sentence to anyone for any reason. “The culprits had to be punished; one can not hang youngsters because they go against gotra norms.” He added that the gotra system has been stretched unnecessarily and complicated, “I am a Bishnoi and we believe in the brotherhood of the village but people of separate gotras can marry within the village, the actual norms are not as complicated as they are made to be.” Breaking down by the mere mention of Manoj’s name, Chandrapati expressed her dissatisfaction at the verdict, “While those who actually kidnapped them and killed have been punished, what about those who aided and abetted the crime? The Haryana police could not protect them from the men who executed the killing. They too are equally responsible for the inhuman act.” However, Chandrapati hopes that the court order will encourage the authorities to take aggressive action and end the system of khap panchayats. “How can people who kill our children be trusted to mete out justice?” President of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), Dr. Jagmati Sangwan said that normally, after such honour killings affected families, surrender to the decisions of the panchayats and do not approach the police or courts which make it impossible to punish the culprit. Khap panchayats are seen as a dependable political tool and vote bank by most politicians and hence no political party condemns their actions. Central to the theme of honour and violence is the subordinate position of girls and women in all castes and communities where a woman's chastity is the ‘honour’ of the community. Apart form the apparent political clout enjoyed by the panchayats a major deterrent in punishing the guilty is that entire villages instigate, inspire, shelter and help the culprits. The sheer terror of khap panchayats can be gauged from the fact that this was the first case in the state in which the affected family decided to seek justice. Many cases don’t even come to light because couples are killed and then cremated by the villagers and families quietly, unless there is a fight or the local media brings it to the notice of general public. Even thought capital punishment, it is given in the rarest of rare cases, the brutal murder of Manoj and Babli by their relatives in 2007 on the diktats of a khap panchayat for marrying in the same gotra, is not rare in rural Haryana. On 23rd July, 2009 Ved Pal Mor was lynched by the villagers of Singhwal in police presence for marrying a girl from the same Gotra. A day after Ved Pal Mor died, Ravinder and Shilpa’s marriage was held invalid by a khap and unable to withstand the pressure Ravinder attempted suicide, but failed. In June 2009, Anita and Sonu, who had fled their village after getting married, were lured back to their village in Rohtak and stabbed to death in public. Pawan and Kavita in Katlehari village faced, who had a 10 month old ons, were told to part as they were brother and sister. Later they approached the court to get the marriage revalidated and also got back their son.(eom) A gotra is the lineage or clan assigned to a Hindu at birth and it is usually patrilineal. Marriages within the gotra ('sagotra' marriages) are not permitted under the rule of exogamy in traditional matrimonial system as people within the gotra are regarded as kin and marrying such a person would be thought of as incest. But in the recent years khap panchayats interpret the gotra kinship along with the village fraternity and thereby ban matrimonial relations within the same village or villages which have residents of the same gotra. Religion and caste are not the only factors, come villages follow the tradition of ‘satgawa’. ‘athgawa’ or ‘baragawa’ which means no two people within seven, eight or 12 villages can marry each other, The villages have a fraternal bond and the couples are considered to have committed incest- a crime punished by death. Due to the complex norms of gotras there have been many cases where marriages, arranged by community, were later held invalid. The khap panchayats order eviction, boycott or even death to the defaulter, which is carried out publicaly and remorselessly. Central to the theme of honour and violence is the subordinate position of girls and women in all castes and communities where a woman's chastity is the ‘honour’ of the community.