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Who gave khaps the right to kill: PC
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

P Chidambaram
P Chidambaram

New Delhi, March 27
For the first time perhaps, a leader of the stature of Home Minister P Chidambaram has taken a serious view of mindless medieval diktats of “khap panchayats” operating in the hinterlands of North India, particularly Haryana.

In a strongly worded statement on Taliban-style khap panchayats, which have claimed the lives of many innocent couples through their self-styled verdicts, the Home Minister said: “Who are these khap panchayats …who gave them the right to kill in the name of honour?”

Questioning the very existence the all-powerful khap panchayats at an AICC lawyers’ convention here, he said they were an affront to human rights along with other social evils like dowry and child marriage and needed to be 
dealt with as strongly as the country fights Naxalism or terrorism — a message perhaps for Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

Khap is a cluster of villages united by caste and geography, started by Jats to consolidate their power and position. Khap panchayats governs the khap formed by same gotra or clan families from several neighbouring villages and are prevalent in Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and parts of Rajasthan.

One main rule is that all boys and girls within a khap are regarded as siblings. Love marriages are considered taboo in areas governed by khap panchayats and those living by khap’s rules are not allowed to marry in the same gotra or even in any gotra from the same village.

Although the number of couples facing harassment at the hands of such panchayats is rising, these khaps have been functioning openly because of the political patronage they enjoy.

Just a couple of hours from the National Capital, the rule of the land changes and while on paper, villages of Haryana are governed by the Indian law, but in reality it is the rule of khaps that prevails.

Many young couples have been killed for defying the khap’s rules while affected families have faced social boycott and even turned out of villages after khaps gave ruling against them.

Even though labelled ‘barbaric’ by the Supreme Court, what appears to be driving these acts is the lack of political will to move against such honour killings, as leaders fear they might lose the vote of dominant castes. In the run-up to last Haryana Assembly elections, Hooda was quoted as saying that khap panchayats are part of “tradition and values”.

As recently as on March 8, a marriage in which the couple belonged to the same clan was annulled by the khap panchayat held at Bhiwani in which former Haryana Chief Minister Hukam Singh was also present.

Although, Hukam Singh was not a part of the decision-making body, he appeared to be in full agreement with the judgement. He was quoted as saying: “We can’t allow this, they (the couple) have to break it (the marriage) or face action. This can never be allowed; this is our law.”

With the rise in the number of illegal decisions being announced by khap panchayats, a campaign has been launched by local administrations in some districts to put an end to the evil practice.

The Centre is also considering bringing a separate law to curb these honour killings.

Recently, a landmark verdict against khap panchayats was given by a Karnal sessions court in which seven accused in the honour killing of an innocent couple were found guilty of murder of Manoj and Babli, a newly-wed couple, who were killed for marrying against the wishes of khap panchayat.



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