July 21st, 2015
The constitution of India ceases to operate within the jurisdiction of Khap Panvhayats in Haryana so much so that even the politicians are afraid to voice their opinions against them for the fear of losing the vote bank. The community body seeps into every aspect of individual life as well.
The latest bizarre instance of encroachment of private lives by the community is that of a khap panchayat in Jind asking a married couple, Praveen Kumar and Poonam, to live as brother and sister. Stating that there existed a bhaichara (kind of blood relation) between the two families, they said that the couple could not marry each other. Not only have they been told to separate but also to regard each other as brother and sister – this when in all likelihood Poonam is even pregnant.
Praveen, 25, is from the Kaushik Phetwadia gotra while Poonam, 30, belongs to the Kaushik Patwalia gotra. According to their villagers, these two gotras are considered to be under bhaichara (brotherhood) in which marriage is forbidden. The couple from Tarori village of Karnal district had not eloped but had an arranged marriage on 22nd February. Nobody had objected to the wedding while the marital negotiations were on.
However, for the last months the two families are being hounded by the villagers to annul the marriage or face social boycott. The khap panchayat even asked Praveen, who is a clerk at a private automobile company near Jind, to give Poonam a shagun of Rs 10, which is a ritual between a brother and sister. Praveen’s father has been directed to disown his son from all the property and belonging and to deposit Rs 3,00,000 in the name of his grandson in the bank.
Since the khap’s order, the hapless couple and their families have been on the run. Finally they approached the Punjab and Haryana High court with a petition stating that Poonam’s father-in-law was humiliated during the khap meeting. SSP Abhishek Jorwal has been directed by the High Court to provide security to them due to the gravity of the matter.
However, looking at the past records of khap panchayats, it is doubtful if the protection would suffice. A few years ago Manoj and Babli of Karoda cvillage in Kaithal district were brutally killed on the direction of the Banwala khap despite having protection under the high court order. Although the murderers had been punished, there was no action against the people who had instigated the attackers.
Such regular incidents of Taliban-like diktats of khaps are not condemned by any political party. However, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. A change can be perceived in the khap leaders themselves with some coming out openly against such obnoxious decisions of the khap panchayats.
For example, DP Vats, national co-ordinator of Sarv Jatiya Khap Panchayat and retired chairman of the Haryana Public Service Commission told the Firstpost – “We condemn such Talibani diktat of the khaps. It is criminal to ask a married couple to live like brother and sister. In this case I am afraid Poonam is even pregnant. How can she call her husband a brother?” Vats is form the Brahmin community from Hisar district. He opined that it is alright to follow the tradition of not marrying people from the same gotra, but bhaichara gotra is something different and slowly the khaps in Haryana are accepting such marriages. The reason he states is the poor sex ratio of Haryana, a state notorious for female foeticide. Due to shortage of girls many men have to resort to ‘Molki’ (buying girls from outside state). Therefore, Vats suggests the relaxation of marital rules.
Even Santish Dahiya, National Woman president of Haryana Sarv Khap Panchayat declares such diktats as illogical since a married couple cannot live as brother and sister – “These incidents give a bad name to society”. Yashpal Malik, National President of the Sarv Jatiya Khap Mahapanchayat said the government should immediately lodge a FIR and strictly punish such khap leaders else they would not learn any lessons, while Sudesh Chaudhary, president of Satrol Khap, Haryana called for sensitizing people on such grave issues.
We hope that the government would act on the advice of these khap leaders and not be a mute spectator yet another time.