In Nepal, where the caste system is deeply entrenched and maintained through arranged marriages, elopement is the only way to marry for love. But when the partner is an untouchable, conservatives punish the lovers with violence, ethnic cleansing, and even death in order to maintain the system.
These five love stories, of high-caste girls running away with untouchable boys, are modern-day versions of Romeo and Juliet.
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.
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.
In a tale of police brutality, 22 year old Shyam, a milk vendor, eloped Saraswoti (21) in 2010. Her parents then bribed the police, who raided the village, tortured Shyam’s father, injured dozens of untouchables, and took Saraswoti away to be married to a man of her caste.
In a sensational court case, Kishor, a 21 year old student who ran away with 17 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.
In a touching tale of murder, Rajib came into town to learn the craft of his caste from his uncle, who owned a jewel shop. But within four months, he fell madly in love with Sabina. Her family could not accept the relationship. The lovers were found hanging on a single shawl in the jungle, a chilling warning to the society that inter-caste relationships are not tolerated.