, PATNA, Jan 23 – A father in eastern India is suing his only son for defamation after he married a woman from a lower caste, saying he has damaged his reputation and social standing.
Sidhnath Sharma is seeking 10,000,000 rupees (Sh13mn) in damages from his son Sushant Jasu and wants to prevent him from using the family surname, with a court hearing set to resume this weekend in Bihar state.
Sharma, a lawyer from the upper-caste Bhumihar group, said the marriage last year broke 400-odd years of tradition.
“For ages, it has been an accepted tradition of arranged marriages within your own caste,” Sharma told AFP from his home in the town of Danapur, just outside the state capital Patna.
“But when my only son ended that, it not only stunned me, it also affected my social status,” Sharma said on Tuesday. “Neither it is forgotten nor forgiven for me.”
The hereditary-based caste system is deeply rooted in many parts of India, including in Bihar, one of the country’s poorest and most populated states.
The system still pervades aspects of daily life, particularly in remote and rural areas, and can dictate marriage, education, employment and land ownership, despite the fact that caste-based discrimination is outlawed.
So called honour killings are also still carried out, with mainly young couples who marry outside their caste or against their relatives’ wishes killed to protect what is seen as the family’s reputation and pride.
Sharma filed the case against Jasu last month and a court in Danapur will resume hearing legal arguments on Saturday.
Jasu, a tax official who works in the western state of Gujarat, married his now wife, a bank officer from Danapur, last November.
Sharma said that if his son continues to use the surname, he will ask for 10,000 rupees in copyright fees each time he is known to use it.
“I have simply sought the court’s directive for compensation for hurting my social reputation and for the return of my time and money that I spent to make him what he is today,” Sharma added.
Sharma is taking the legal action despite the fact that the majority of his family, including Jasu’s mother, agree with the marriage.
“If my son is happy with his marriage, I should openly back him. Time has changed now, one should understand it,” Sharma’s wife said, asking not to be named.
Jasu declined to comment on the case.
The Bihar government has introduced initiatives to break down caste barriers, and last year doubled the incentive for women who marry outside of their caste to 50,000 rupees.