Couple punished for love marriage

A month back, a panchayat at Asara village in Baghpat district banned love marriages.

On Saturday night, armed men struck in the same village at the home of a couple who had married after a brief affair, gunning down two members of their family and wounding three others.

The attack at the home of  Akhlaq and Sajida killed the man's elderly father and his 30-year-old sister. The lovers were among those critically injured.

According to reports, Sajida, a divorcee, had an affair with Akhlaq, and the two married a few months back.

Sajida’s first husband Shakeel, however, did not like this. “Shakeel had been burning with revenge”, claimed Naseem, Akhlaq's brother.

Shakeel was emboldened by the panchayat which had on July 7 banned love marriages, and issued a warning that violators would be punished.

“Love marriages will not be accepted. Such couples will be thrown out of the villages”, the panchayat, attended by members of as many as 36 communities, including Hindus and Muslims, had declared.

Many couples in Asara village, who had married after an affair, had urged police to ensure their safety and got assurances from officials.

On Saturday night, Shakeel, along with 10 armed assailants, broke into Akhlaq’s house and started firing indiscriminately. Akhlaq’s father Abalu and his sister Gulashana were killed on the spot while the couple and another member of the family sustained bullet injuries.

The killings sent the police into a tizzy and security personnel in strength were rushed to the village. The station house in-charge was placed under suspension for laxity. The alleged killers were absconding.

There were at least 14 couples, who had married after falling in love, living in the village. Many of them were now planning to leave the village after the bloody incident, reports said.

The panchayat had also banned use of cell phones by women and said girls would have to cover their heads when they venture out of their homes. It also said the women, who are under 40, would not be allowed to visit the village markets alone.

Panchayats in UP are infamous for their insensitive and at times bizarre diktats. In the past also they have pronounced death penalty for lovers and even let off rape accused with just a fine.

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