24-year-old Sukanya and 27-year-old Arun last stepped foot into their parents’ houses in 2012.
For nearly five years, the young couple who hail from Wayanad's Mananthavady, have been facing a boycott from their Yadava community leaders, who believe they have sinned for having a "love marriage".
Four and a half years after their wedding , the couple has been banned from interacting with members of their community and have been warned against contacting their family members. Their respective families have also been warned of facing a social boycott if they keep in touch with their children.
Sukanya and Arun belong to the Yadava community, which is an Other Backward Class (OBC) in Kerala. With nearly 800 families, the community members live in the same neighbourhood and is a linguistic minority in the state.
When the couple fell in love and expressed their desire to get married, both their families objected to it. Apart from the economic disparity between the two families, the major point of objection to the wedding is a deep-rooted social custom the community members continue to follow, where "love marriages" have no acceptance.
Speaking to The News Minute, Arun, a driver, says that they were not the first or the only couple to have been boycotted by community members.
Following objections from their family, the couple got married in a temple away from their home and later got the marriage registered. However, the legality of their marriage was of no importance to the community members, who refused to accept them as they did not get married according to the "community's customs."
"The day we got married, one of my relatives called me up to inform me that we were no longer required to go back to the community. He told us that we have been boycotted from the community. Nobody, including our family members were supposed to maintain any contact with us. If they were to do so, they would also face the same fate as ours, we were told. Since then, none of us had the courage to defy the mandate," Arun explains.
In 2015, the couple had a girl child, but wasn't allowed to meet their families. They would see their family members walk past them on the road, without exchanging a word or a look.
"They are all scared to even talk to us from outside the neighbourhood. What if someone gets to know? And so we kept quiet all this while," Arun says.
Arun says that boycotting a person who married outside the community or without following their rituals is bound to face ostracisation. Multiple negotiations to "take them back to the community" have failed and in November 2016, a formal notice from the community leaders sealed their fate.
A notice, signed by 10 community leaders, were brought out. The circular only reinstated what had been "unofficially" practiced till then- isolate the couple. According to the circular, Arun and Sukanya were "kulamkuthis" (traitors of one's clan) and were to be shunned
"We are a community that has been following the path shown to us by our ancestors. Impure persons who corrupt such a way of living, should be shunned. They are Kuladrohis (traitor of one's clan). People who help them will also be considered as impure and shunned. It has been brought to our notice that of late, some people have been maintaining contact with Sukanya, who has been ousted from the community," reads the notice.
Sukanya narrates, "I had gone to Kanchi Kamakshiamman temple for Navarathri celebrations in October and as part of the temple feast, had food with my mother. It was after this, that the notice that tagged us as kulamkuthis were brought out. The community members boycotted our families for three months, but later agreed to take them back to the community after they publicly apologized."
When the duo approached Mananthavady DySP with their issue, the officer had impressed upon their community leader for a negotiation.
Mani, President of Kerala Yadava Seva Samithi, who attended the meeting, however, denied that the couple had been "ousted" from the community.
In March this year, Sukanya and Arun decided that they would no longer suffer the injustice and sought the help of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by lodging a complaint through the PM's mobile application. A few days later, the complaint was forwarded to the office of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the Social Justice Department. A report has been sought within a period of 30 days, from the Government of Kerala.
When repeated efforts to end their ostracisation failed, the couple decided to take the legal route.
They approached Delhi-based lawyer Sreejith Perumana, a native of Mananthavady, to file a case against Mani, their community leader.
The lawyer told TNM that a case would be filed against the community leader Mani.
"As of now, the community members are outrightly denying the couple's version of social boycott. However, we have a copy of the notice that asks all community members to boycott the couple, which is enough proof against the leader. It is a grave violation of human rights and with little information on Yadav community in Kerala, the fact that social boycott is a common practice in their community was not revealed until now. Now that it has, there is no denial that it is a human rights violation," the lawyer said.