This is a story of four untouchable boys who eloped with high-caste girls. Using only interviews and novoice over, it tells of love creating a conflict between parents and children, religion and human rights, of youth who reject their culture to assert the freedom to love andthe right to marry a partner of their choice. It also tells ofHindu extremists who view these lovers as a threat to the system, for an increase in inter-caste marriage will blur caste boundaries and create an equal society. Therefore conservatives punish the lovers with severe violence to discourage future elopements.
Twenty-five-year-old Manoj leads the narration. His elopement with Parbati, twenty-two, in 2003 led to ethnic cleansing in his village. Hundreds of high-caste men attacked the around eighty untouchables, in a bid to drive them out and “purify” the village, putting the lovers under extreme pressure to separate. But they decided to stay together, against all odds. Now, they are relatively well-off peasant farmers with two sons.
Similarly, when Khadga, twenty-three,and Jaisara, twenty-one, eloped in 2008, violence between high-caste and untouchables erupted in the village. The lovers hid in a forest for several days to escape the wrath of Jaisara’s parents, who wanted to see them dead. They lost their way in the thick jungle and nearly starved to death. But they survived, and now have one son. They are landless and homeless refugees in their own country, struggling to earn a living by cultivating other people’s farms.
In a tale of police brutality, twenty-two-year-old Shyam, a milk vendor, eloped with twenty-one-year-old Saraswoti in 2010. Her parents bribed the police, who raided the village, tortured Shyam’s father, injured dozens of untouchables, and took Saraswoti away. But three months later, Saraswoti escaped from her family where she was kept like a prisoner and returned to her love. Thereafter, her parents conceded defeat and disowned her.
The fourth story is of a sensational court case. Kishor, twenty-one, a university student who ran away with seventeen-year-old Ranjana in 2010 was charged with kidnapping and seducing a minor. The judge controversially dismissed the case against him, which was a victory for all Nepali youth who believe in love.
Rajib and Sabina’s tale is a chilling reminder for us to take immediate action before the situation runs out of control. With four months of their meeting, Rajib and Sabina planned to elope, but her family did not like it. They were found hanging in the jungle.
These stories evolve over three major phases, modeled on the classical three-act structure. The first part introduces us to the subject matter and the characters. It is an ethnographic account of how they met, how they dated, and how their love blossomed in secrecy amidst the undercurrents of caste discrimination in their villages.
Being young and innocent, they did not think there was a very big problem in their communities. It seems a just society, with the evil of caste fading into the past. The high castes allow untouchables to live next door, to share their water sources, markets, temples, and schools. Only after children from the two polar families fall in love does it surface that high castes are not ready to share blood with untouchables.
Unable to bear the thought of their love coming to an end, the lovers sneak out of home in the dead of night and secretly get married. They flee to unknown futures, with barely enough money to last them a few months past their honeymoon.
This leads us to the second part, which recounts the consequences of the elopements. To the untouchables, marrying a high caste is a matter of honor, a way to uplift their social status and end discrimination. They, therefore, do everything to support the lovers. But the high castes feel polluted and use severe violence to restore their honor. Being numerically stronger, they attack the untouchables to drive them out of the village, or force them to pay very heavy fines. With influence in the government, they use the police to find the runaways. The police falsely claim the girl is underage, or frame the boy for kidnap, and randomly arrest and torture the boy’s relatives until someone reveals the whereabouts of the runaways. Therefore, to ensure success, the lovers keep their hiding (honeymoon) place a total secret.
Interviews with scholars, human rights activists and anthropologists place the events in a theoretical framework to enable the audience to understand the subject matter.