Ahead of polls, Khaps call the shots in Haryana

Ahead of polls, Khaps call the shots in Haryana

 The all-powerful Khap panchayats, that have arguably dominated the social fabric of Haryana’s hinterland for decades despite strictures by the apex court, are now seeking their pound of flesh in return for supporting candidates in this election.

They have announced support, albeit subtly, for those candidates or political parties that promise to amend the Hindu Marriage Act to include a complete ban on marriages within same villages and within the same gotra. They also seek support of political parties to legitimise their status, something akin to a Lok Adalat.

Political parties in Haryana can ill-afford to condemn or ignore many of these panchayats known to issue diktats that many a time are unconstitutional. But all political parties are vying for their support this elections given the clout they hold in hundreds of villages and suburban areas in the state.

Kuldeep Singh Dhanda, convener of the Sarv Khap Panchayat, Haryana, said they have been depicted as villains who are against love marriages. Dhanda said Khaps are not against love marriages but against same gotra and same village marriages which they will continue to oppose. “Our support is for parties that promises to declare such marriages illegal,” he said.

One of the candidates of the INLD, Shamsher Kharkara, who is contesting from Rohtak against CM’s son Deepinder Hooda, has  been the head of one of the Khap outfits. He said, if he comes to power, he will ban such marriages by pressing for amendments in the Act.

Unfortunately, as campaigning peaks in Haryana, none of the political parties are even talking about the ills and diktats that Khaps have been pursuing with impunity.

Neither of the parties have felt the need to include in their campaign the necessity to address the phenomenon of a nearly 400 per cent jump in the number of runaway couples in the state out of fear. When it comes to Khaps, Haryana speaks one language — that of silence. This conspiracy of silence loaded with fear assures approval of such acts, albeit mutely.

The incumbent Congress is also banking on Khap support. A public honour programme was recently arranged by several khaps at Denoda village of Jind district for CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda and state minister Randeep Surjewala, both Jat leader.

With the Khaps whipping their prominence, these outfits are here to play a prominent role in the elections.

The political will, or the lack of it, is pitted against a medieval mindset of self-styled Khap leaders in the state, a mindset that blames consumption of Chowmein for the growing incidents of rapes in the state on the premise that it leads to hormonal imbalance. Yet, political parties in the state are shying away from commenting on such acts in the elections.

The Congress stands a gainer in this election owing to the support of various Khaps. The Hooda government conveniently lost one opportunity it got to “rein-in” Khaps three years ago.

It opposed a Union government move that intended to give more muscle to the law to tackle the social evil. Hooda, in demi-official note in 2010 to the group of Union ministers, maintained that any attempt to rush a legal solution to a problem embedded deeply in customs and usage, may not have the desired impact.

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