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Izzatnagari ki aSHBHYA bETIYAAN

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?Izzatnagari ki Asabhya Betiyan (The Immoral Daughters in the Land of Honour),a 93-minute long documentary directed by FTII graduate Nakul Singh Sawhney,has already been making waves in Delhi University and Jamia Millia Islamia ever since it premièred on January 15. It is now all set to hit Haryana with a special screening in Kaithal (where the infamous Manoj-Babli honour killing case happened) on February 26.

The title of the film comes from a remark made by one Jai Singh Ahlawat of the Ahlawat Khap. ?Those who threaten our traditional code are the educated youngsters,the Harijan officers who want everything to be equal. And our asabhya betiyan (immoral daughters) who want to live like animals and want our traditions to be quashed so that there are no restrictions on them,? Ahlawat says in the film.

While vehemently denying that khap panchayats have any role to play in honour killings,voices like those of khap ideologue Chander Singh Dalal clearly explain how khaps perceive these issues. ?Marry a Muslim if you must,marry a Christian,marry an old man,or a cripple of lame or even outside the village. But don’t marry in the same village and the same gotra,? he says in the film.

 
 
 
 

Of the five real-life protagonists,the tales of two?Seema and Gaurav Saini probably come closest to explaining the kind of events and incidents related to khaps and honour killings that have rocked Haryana over the past few years.

Seema is the sister of Manoj,who alongwith his newly-married wife Babli was killed in June 2007 in Kaithal for having married in the same gotra. While a lower court had awarded death sentence to the accused,the High Court had commuted it to life imprisonment to four of those convicted while acquitting two including the alleged main conspirator. The case is now in the Supreme Court.

Seema narrates how she and her mother Chanderpati were boycotted and ostracised in the village even after the killings. ?The village potter refused to even sell us a pot in which we wanted to put their ashes before immersion. We had to travel to another village to get the pot,? she says in the film.

Then there is the story of Gaurav Saini who came across Monica Dagar in a chat room and ended up marrying her against her family’s wishes in 2009. Having lived together for a few days,the couple were separated following Gaurav’s arrest by the police. He spent 32 days in a Uttar Pradesh jail. He hasn’t heard from Monica since July 12,2009. Monica’s family has reportedly claimed that she died of illness. Gaurav is not buying this. ?No one has seen her dead body,they have probably married her off somewhere else,? he says.

In days before their marriage,Gaurav had given Monica a cellphone. Her family had given that phone back to him after they took her away. He is still holding onto that the two phones?his own and the one he had given her?knowing that those are the only two numbers Monica would never forget and would someday call.

Then there is Mukesh from Rohtak,who left her home because she wanted to assert her choices. She thinks she is lucky to be alive because she eventually did not marry the ?out of caste? person she was once thinking of marrying. For Geetika,originally from Haryana,doing street plays on honour crimes is a way to question the beliefs on the subject. For Anjali,her MPhil thesis on honour crimes is her answer to the voice of tradition.

?The idea was to understand the issue. It is just not about same gotra marriages. What these khaps are opposing is the fact that women are expressing their desire to live with people of their choice. Also,the resistance to the caste system that is coming from women,Dalits,poor and landless is also leading to this violent backlash. Honour is just a facade,? says Nakul Sawhney,the director.

The documentary also shows the displeasure of khap representatives over the 2010 film Om Puri starrer ?Khap? that dealt with the subject of honour killings. The film,which generated a lot of heat in the run-up to its release,was finally not allowed to be screened in Haryana. A group of khap representatives,called for a special screening of that film,are shown trashing the film in this documentary. Director Sawhney says he doesn?t know whether his film will face a similar problem in the state. ?We are looking at ways of distributing this for a commercial release but nothing has been firmed up yet,? he says.