Youth was beheaded and his body dumped in front of his house in Rohtak

Despite the Supreme Court’s strictures, Haryana’s shame through “honour killings” continued as a couple were brutally killed in full public view on Wednesday at Gharnavathi in Rohtak, home district of Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

Nidhi Barak, 20, was lynched by her own family and they broke the limbs of Dharmendra Barak, 23, before beheading him and dumping the body in front of his house. The police have arrested Nidhi’s parents, brother and uncle and are on the lookout for others involved in the killing.

Some witnesses have also been detained.

Nidhi and Dharmendra were studying in Rohtak, 10 km from their village, and were in a relationship for almost three years. When both went missing on Tuesday, Nidhi’s family got in touch with her and persuaded them to return home, with the promise that they would not be harmed. As they returned on Wednesday, Nidhi’s family took them to their house and killed them.

Her family rushed to cremate Nidhi’s body, but Kalanaur SHO Ramesh Kumar reached the spot with a police party and recovered the half-burnt body, which along with Dharmendra’s, was sent for autopsy. Nidhi’s family, which runs a thriving dog-breeding business, is said to wield major influence in the region. Dharmendra’s family is into farming.

The families, of the same “gotra,” told the police that the couple eloped on Tuesday to get married in Delhi, 90 km away.

The brutal killing is yet another reminder of the power “khap panchayats” wield, issuing diktats against marriages within the same ‘gotra’ (clan) and in the same village or even ‘bhaichara’ (brotherhood). In Haryana, there have been numerous cases of couples having defied the Khap diktat and paid the price with their lives.

Last year, the Supreme Court asked its amicus curiae as well as the State governments to devise a legal regime that could prevent “Taliban-like groups” from inciting executions of couples of the same “gotras.” NGO Shakti Vahini had petitioned the court for intervention against extra-judicial killings in the name of community honour, and for holding “khap” members accountable for such crimes. In 2011, the court ruled that “honour killings” came under the category of the “rarest of rare” cases and those indulging in such crimes should be awarded death penalty

As in the past, mindful of the influence of the “khaps” in politics, most of the parties, especially the ruling Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal, have avoided comments on the Rohtak killing. However, Haryana Janhit Congress chief Kuldip Bishnoi has condemned the incident.

Savita, secretary of the All-India Democratic Women’s Association in Haryana, said the State, which had recorded dozens of such killings, had done nothing to curb the crime. Reiterating the AIDWA’s demand for separate legislation against honour killings, she pointed out that a memorandum containing over one lakh signatures was submitted to the Union Law Minister a few months ago, along with draft legislation. However, the draft was not tabled in Parliament owing to opposition from the Haryana government and pressure from the “khaps.”