By Krishnaraj Rao
Patan : Fearing for their lives due to death threats by a Patel family, a newly wedded couple and the bridegroom’s family of six Harijans (Scheduled Caste) have fled their village in Gujarat’s Patan district on 16th November, and are hiding in faraway towns and villages. The death threats started on the afternoon of 16th November, when 21-year-old Vishal Chawda – a graduate — married his school classmate Khushbu Patel. Khushbu’s father Ganpatbhai Gangaram Patel had evidently planned to get her married off on 25th November i.e. today, along with her sister. Khushbu, who clearly had her own plans for her life, secretly got wedded to Vishal Chawda on 15th November in a private ceremony, and their marriage was registered in Ahmedabad on 16th November. Then the newly-wedded couple went underground. The parents and other relatives of Vishal Chawda, who lived and earned their livelihoods in Dhinod Village (Taluka Chanasma, District Patan), had no choice but to lock up their homes and their shop, and to go into hiding.
The threat perception is a spreading one. Even the relatives of people suspected of sheltering the Chawdas are being visited by the Patels, and threatened.
The intentions of the Patels is to separate the newly-wedded couple, and possibly to torture and kill them. Ganpatbhai Gangaram Patel (Father of Khushbu Vishal Chawda), Jayantibhai Kashiram alias JK (Khushbu’s uncle) and Ravibhai Ganpatbhai Patel (Brother of Khushbu) and also another person camed Mahesh Patel, have been repeatedly making threat calls to Vishal’s father Ishwarbhai Mafatlal Chawda. Although the Patels know that the marriage has been completed, registered and consummated, they want the Chawdas to hand over Khushbu Chawda (formerly Patel) to them. Their chilling message is: “You return the girl before 25th, and we will all go our separate ways and let us all forget everything. Otherwise, starting from 26th, all your lives are finished.”
Listen to this recording of a threat-call received yesterday.
When Vishal Chawda married Khushbu Patel in a secret ceremony, all hell was unleashed by the Patel family. The Chawda family now lives in hiding, in fear for their lives.
On 22nd and 23rd November, the Chawda family managed to hand-deliver a complaint to various police officials, including the Superintendent of Police, Inspector General of Police and Home Secretary. Here is the proof of delivery.
The Harijan family’s main complaint is that they have been forced to vacate their homes, their shops, their means of livelihood and their village, by threats of mob violence, arson and murder, and therefore, action should be taken against the Patel family as per Prevention of Atrocities Act. The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, under Section 3(xv), states:
“3. Punishments for offences of atrocities.—
(1) Whoever, not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe, —
(xv) forces or causes a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe to leave his house, village or other place of residence, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and with fine.”
The police complaint gives the following sequence of events:
“a) On 15th November, Chawda Vishal Ishwarbhai (aged 21) got married to Patel Khushbuben (aged 21), daughter of Patel Ganpatbhai Gangaram, without the consent or knowledge of their family members. The marriage was registered in Ahmedabad on 16th November, 2016. We were not informed of the marriage.
b) At 5 pm on 16th November, Patel Ganpatbhai Gangaram (father of the bride Patel Khushbuben), came to the house of Chawda Ishwarbhai Mafatlal, in search of Chawda Vishal Ishwarbhai, who was not there. Ganpatbhai took Ishwarbhai to Patan with him to search for Vishal at the North Gujarat University. Patel Jayantibhai Kashiram (alias “JK”) also joined them in Patan. The search for Vishal was unsuccessful.
c) Then Ganpatbhai Patel and JK threatened Ishwarbhai Chawda, saying that they will burn down Ishwarbhai’s houses along with his full family. “If you want to live, you will have to leave this village,” they said.
d) After hearing this, immediately after returning home, we, the six undersigned persons locked and vacated our house and are still living at the house of a relative in a faraway village.
e) When Vishal Ishwarbhai did not return home, we approached Chanasma police station to register a missing complaint on 18th November, 2016, at 4 pm. We were then informed by police that Vishal and Khushbu had got married, and we were shown certificate of marriage, which may have been faxed to the police by the couple. The PSO heard our complaint at 5.30 pm on 18/11/2016, but refused to write it down. Hence, we are forced to submit this complaint in writing. Till today, we are living in fear, away from our own home and village.
Ganpatbhai Patel and other accused have been constantly phoning and threatening us. Ganpatbhai Patel has told us to return his daughter (Khushbu Vishal Chawda) before 25th November…”
CHILLING PHONE CONVERSATION cited in the police complaint:
“Ganpatbhai Gangaram Patel: You do anything you want, search for them (i.e. the couple) and present my daughter at my house before 25th.
Jayanti Kashiram: I am your father (taro baap), Jayanti Kashram. You give us the girl back or else. On 26th , we will cut you into small pieces. You can hide anywhere in the world, but on 26th, we will f**k your mother (Maa chodi naku). You leave the girl here by 25th, otherwise the 26th is ours. Even if you hide in your mother’s womb, we will take you out. Don’t think this is (a matter of) anybody else’s household (this is Jayant Kashiram’s household, you know), if you make the girl present here, you will be spared, otherwise we will f**k your mother. Give your address, you sister f**ker, give us your true address. (* Many other obscenities were also spoken.*)
Mahesh Patel: If you don’t want to come into fault, and you genuinely don’t know where your son is, then give us your address and we will come to meet you personally (a threat).
Jayanti Kashiram Patel: Where are you? This is your father JK speaking. Give us your address. Just now you said you were in Kalol, and now you say you are in Dhanera? Give us your real address if you are not in fault. If I see you anywhere, I will kill you (make “kachumbar” out of you). (*These sentences were spoken in abusive language with many obscenities.*)
Mahesh Patel: You return the girl, and we will all go our separate ways and let us all forget everything. If you are telling the truth, you come before us with the girl. Afterwards we will see.“
So far, it is not known what action the police has taken to restrain the Patel family, or to protect the lives of the newlyweds and other Chawda family members. Can the Chawda family members, including Vishal and Khushbu, ever return to their homes and resume their normal lives? Will they be able to move about without mortal fear? Or will the Patel family succeed in implementing their threats? Will 26th November become another black day in the history of Gujarat, which is all-too-well-known for carnages?
In the context of honour killings that frequently happen in rustic India, our prayers are with the Chawda family.