A Dalit couple was fined and refused entry into a temple by a khap panchayat for marrying outside their caste in Tamil Nadu’s Thirupathur district, reported News18 on Tuesday.

The couple, 26-year-old Kanagaraj and 23-year-old Jayapriya, belong to the Muracha Parayar and Thamana Paraya sects – both of which are under the Scheduled Caste community. The two had eloped Pullur village after the woman’s parents objected to their relationship. The couple married in January 2018 in Chennai.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic Kanagaraj was out of a job, and the couple returned to the village. The khap panchayat had already imposed a fine of Rs 2.5 lakh if the two ever returned to the village.

“Paying fines for marrying outside caste is common in our village,” the man told News18. “Usually the amount is about Rs 5,000-10,000. However, for us it’s 2.5 lakhs. I was ready to pay Rs 25,000, but they didn’t take it. Now, I refuse to pay any fine. But the khap heads keep insisting on it. When I wanted to attend the village festival my wife and I were denied entry into temple.”

Following this, Kanagaraj filed a complaint at the Thimampettai police station. During the investigation, the heads of the khap panchayat, Ellappan and Nagesh, agreed to lift the penalty. However, after the inquiry, they continued to demand that the couple pay the fine imposed on them, according to News18.

Thirupathur district Superintendent of Police Vijayakumar said there was no pending complaint about the fine, and there was no financial transaction between the two groups. “There are complaints from both the groups about the subsequent quarrel during a temple rally,” the police officer told News18. “We have filed FIRs on both sides. Two months back, we remanded two people in a nearby village where similar fines were imposed.” Vijayakumar said they will act on a complaint, if it exists.

One of the heads of the khap panchayat, Ellappan, denied there was ever any fine imposed. He claimed there were arguments between the two families as the couple had married after eloping.

He added that a fine of only Rs 500 was to be paid for causing “disruption in the village”. Ellappan said that people in Pullur village were poor and such an exorbitant fine could not be imposed on the locals, according to the news channel.

Meanwhile, during a function at the temple last week, Kanagaraj’s father-in-law was allegedly assaulted by Ellappan and his accomplices. After this, Kanagaraj filed a complaint and an FIR was registered, reported News18. Ellappan also filed complaints against the man and his family, and another FIR was filed against them.