What are khap panchayats?

May 11th, 2010 - 9:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban New Delhi, May 11 (IANS) Khap is a cluster of villages united by caste and geography. The khaps vehemently oppose marriages within the same ‘gotra’ or ancestral lineage.
Originally the reason was to avoid in-breeding and birth of children with defects it caused. While this is no longer an issue, sa-gotra - in-gotra - marriages are still forbidden on the grounds of social brotherly relations and honour.

Khap panchayats have often been compared to Taliban-type kangaroo courts and are infamous for imposing their cruel judgements on young couples who marry within their ‘gotra’ or lineage. Although their rulings have no legal validity, khap panchayats are socially very powerful and have succeeded in sticking to their so-called traditions.

Today, states such as Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan are still governed by the rules of gotras. Villagers in these states still swear by the gotra system of marriage and consider in-gotra marriage a taboo.

Couples who violate the gotra rule usually face death, while their family members are shunned as outcasts. Many young couples who have dared to marry within their gotra have been murdered or have committed suicide.

For example, in June 2009 a khap panchayat forced Manoj and his wife Babli to drink pesticide. A high court order to give police protection to the young couple was in vain.

Partap Singh, a former MLA and estranged brother of former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, says that “in the absence of norms, khap panchayats are playing havoc with the lives of young couples by issuing diktats at will”.

In territories ruled by khap panchayats, girls are seldom sent to school and are often married off at an early age because of fear that they might “go astray”. In some Haryana villages, young girls are routinely threatened, abused and killed under khap verdicts. The entire onus of protecting the village honour rests on the shoulders of young girls.

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