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These five decisions by Khap Panchayats will make you question whether we really live in a free country. How have we allowed such feudal institutions to persist?
Khap Panchayats also dubbed as Kangaroo courts are India’s crying shame and their very existence in a democracy like ours’ is nothing short of an enigma. The very mention of the term Khap is enough to send a chill down the spine of many young villagers who face such extra-judicial courts. They have an infamous reputation for their notorious attacks and vicious conduct taking many lives in the process.
Khap translated as the cluster of villages which are bound by caste and geography is an arrangement which goes as far back as the 14th century. Khap Panchayats were started by upper caste jats to consolidate their power and position. They govern the conduct of the villagers and guard the age-old rule that all boys and girls within a Khap are siblings. Khaps take under their wing all the families of same gotra from several neighbouring villages – hence those living in a particular Khap are forbidden to marry each other along with many other restrictions.
If anyone is caught defying the rules, the khap imposes social boycotts, fines and in some case, if not most, enforced honour killing. The long and gory history of khap panchayats have claimed many innocent lives and given the most heinous verdicts. The story of their brutality is a blotch on our democracy and constitution. There have been several PILs against many of their verdicts where the Supreme Court has firmly stood with the victims, making it even more difficult to understand the delay in repealing their existence once and for all. Their various diktats have lead to extreme cases of violence against the ‘offenders’.
Right from deciding the dress code for females to ensuring no interaction between the two genders, to honour killings all in the name of maintaining cordial relations between villages seems ludicrous.
Following are some of the cases exhibiting the viciousness and lack of respect for life by khap panchayats:
In the infamous Manoj and Babli honour killing, the two newlyweds were killed in June 2007. The killing was ordered by a khap panchayat in their Karora Village in Kaithal district, Haryana. Both were given Police protection; however the policemen slipped away after leaving them at Peepli village. That is when Babli’s family members kidnapped them and killed the couple in cold blood. Their bodies were fished out of a canal where they were thrown after being wrapped in gunny bags.
A woman named Mamta Bai from Rajasthan got served with an order to live with a man whose wife eloped with her husband by the Khap of Notara Bhopat village. She was asked to either pay a compensation of Rs 3 lakhs or live with Rajendra Meghwal. She also alleged that a large stone was lobbed at her home which lead to the arrest of Rajendra’s brother. All this in the name of justice in the year 2015.
In Kolar village, Sarda Tehsil of Udaipur, a married woman and the 28 – year old man with whom she had eloped got brutally punished by the villagers after forcibly making them return. Villagers tied them to trees and stripped the woman in full view and snipped her hair. After that, they relentlessly beat up the couple.
In the year 2012 a khap panchayat in Uttar Pradesh gave a dictum of minimal use of cell phones for women under 40 years of age, banned their going out with a male and all love marriages. This created headlines all over the nation and people raised voice against the validity of Khaps in their day and age. Sadly, the panchayats are still in existence.
In August, this year a Khap in Meerut issued a diktat to the villagers to rape two Dalit sisters and parade them naked all around the village. Their only crime being the alleged elopement of their brother with a woman of the jat community. The panchayat threatened to go ahead with the verdict in case the couple didn’t return, which they did and soon after, the woman got married. However when the woman returned to UP they eloped again, now leaving the sisters afraid of facing the adverse judgement.
What is terrible is that in many cases the Police tends to turn a blind eye to these diktats and even denies the charges by the victims but pretends to come to their rescue after the crime is committed. The khaps are taking away lives ferociously and setting new records of barbarity. Because of the failure of Panchayati Raj and judicial delays these courts will always be famous, limiting the personal liberty of men and women. It is high time for us to make more noise against this regressive set up of mob-operated courts on the basis of caste. Every time a diktat is passed by them we go further back into the dark ages. It is a medieval and feudal system which has no place in any country of the world.
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