The Giant leap of kangaroo courts
By Devi Priya P.G
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND :-
'Khap Panchayats' and 'Honour Killings' , these terms are very often seen in print and visual media these days in our very own India . Is this something new? Certainly not. Khap panchayats have existed since 2500 BC and have managed their affairs independent of the law of the land. Historically they have standing armies protecting the individual Khaps. What we see now as khaps is just a cluster of villages united by caste and geography which is as old as 14th century started by upper caste Jats to consolidate their power and position. Khap Panchayats governs several neighbouring villages. These are prevalent in Punjab, Haryana, Western UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and parts of Rajasthan.
WHAT'S HAPPENING :-
The major reason why these Khap Panchayats are in limelight recently is due to the so called "Honour Killings" which take place in areas ruled by Khaps. Those living in a Khap are not allowed to marry in the same gotra or even any gotra from the same village. They don't even permit inter-caste marriages. So the real taboo which lead to these numerous killings are love marriages. Is love a crime ? That too in a democratic set up like India where people are subject to freedom of choice as long as we don't
encroach upon another individual's rights.
The reason why the Khaps strongly object these marriages is because people in the same gotra are considered as siblings and hence marriages between two such individuals goes against their ethical values. The entire onus of sibling hood rests on the girl. The severe punishments and even murders are executed by the village members. Ironically even the victims parents are favouring these inhumane deeds for their conservative beliefs and attitudes.
WHAT LEADS TO THIS ?
Mostly the Khaps are under the control of the most economically affluent people in the villages and these are used as channels for caste based political mobilisation.
The various social and ethical beliefs that are so deeply rooted in the Indian social fabric, especially in the economically and socially under developed areas with greater illiterate masses.
People have a blind faith in these Khaps which are presently outside the administrative and judicial machinery due to the inherent weaknesses of democratically elected Panchayathi Raj institutions.
People defend these systems on 2 main grounds :-
* Speedy delivery of justice as they give verdict in one sitting whereas courts drag them for years.
* People believe that since all the individuals involved in the Khaps are known to each other , there is greater transparency unlike police stations and courts which victimize innocent people many a times.
- Couples violating these village norms are being killed are ruthlessly killed. Even those couples who completed 6 to 8 years of married life with kids are asked to annul their marriage and are asked to live as siblings for the rest of their life.
- There are numerous cases where young girls are routinely threatened, abused and killed under Khap verdicts and it is really pathetic to know that it is acceptable for families to feed pesticide pills to the teenage girls and dispose off their burnt bodies without any police records.
- Many schools in these areas are forced to have separate timings for boys and girls and fearing their daughters would go astray parents would marry off them at an early age.
- Most importantly the question of women's rights does not exist anywhere in the territories ruled by Khap.
The situation has gone so worse that these Khap Panchayats are indirectly demanding a legal status for their unlawful activities by asking for an amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act. But it is a naked truth that the Hindu Marriage Act is already scientific and bars close cousin marriage to the necessary extent i.e. up to 5 generations on father's side and 3 on mother's side and allows cross cousin marriages where customs allows them. This has a very strong scientific base taking into consideration the various genetical aspects. In this regard, alarmed by the steep rise in the incidents of honour killings the centre has decided to bring in a new law in the coming monsoon session of the parliament beginning in July 22nd, making a provision for the prosecution of entire Khap Panchayats for ordering violent punishment for young couples. Considering the urgency of the situation the cases will be tried by fast track courts. This would be an effective solution in the short run.
But I strongly believe this is neither the only solution nor a permanent solution mainly because: for the so called intelligentsia in urban areas these kind of social links are beyond the scope of understanding. The ethical and cultural values, beliefs and social systems which are so deeply embedded in the rural areas are entirely different. The ignorance and illiteracy of the village folk are prime issues. So instead of branding them as criminals or Indian Taliban, What proves to be a more viable solution is to enlighten them that their context of past cannot mean for the present.
They should be made aware that the value systems have changed and what they do right now will obstruct their own development in future course. So there should be effective governmental intervention and local self governments which should monitor the Khaps in such a way , that they adopt to modern times and their power and influence shall be exercised in the village communities in tackling the real issues like female foeticide, Illiteracy etc. Which stand as a stumbling block in the development of these villages. Just 2 things can make this happen ---
Timely action and political will with whole hearted co operation of the people. The road ahead is not that easy to grab.
What we need to do is to fight against the adversities. Only then will they realize that there is no honour in honour killings . . . . . . . . . . . .