Regressive move

It is a matter of serious concern that several legislators have come out in support of khap panchayats. Congress MP Navin Jindal is reported to have supported the Haryana khap panchayats’ demand for amending the Hindu Marriage Act to ban marriages within the same gotra. Others who are backing this demand include Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) chief and Haryana MLA, Omprakash Chautala, senior Congress leader and six-time MLA from Rewari, Ajay Yadav, and Congress MP Shadi Lal Batra. While electoral calculations rather than personal conviction is believed to have prompted the positions taken by these legislators, still this is wholly unacceptable. Khap panchayats are unconstitutional bodies. They have been openly defying the law of the land, issuing illegal diktats, even killing people who dare to act in defiance of their regressive thinking. Scores of young people who have married within their gotra or chosen their own partners outside their caste have been hunted down and hacked to death on the orders of these khaps. And the frequency of such ‘honour killings’ is mounting as growing numbers of youth in rural India want to break away from the shackles of feudal ideologies.

Recently, a Haryana court sentenced five people to death and one person to life imprisonment for killing a couple who had married within the same gotra. The sentence appears to have rattled several khaps in Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Their campaign to outlaw same-gotra marriages is a ruse to get legal sanction for their illegal diktats. And it is this campaign that Jindal and others are supporting.

It has been reported that Jindal endorsed the khap panchayats after they threatened to lay siege to his house. His buckling to their intimidation is shameful. One would have expected him to show more spine in defending the law of the land. He has sought to explain away his support to the khap panchayats by claiming that he was only articulating the demands put forward by a section of his constituents. If he is indeed committed to giving voice to his constituents, then he should speak up too to articulate what victims of the khaps feel on the issue. Jindal, Chautala and others should bear in mind that as Indian citizens, they must obey the laws of this country and as legislators they are duty bound to defend the law of the land, not to encourage illegal ‘caste councils’ to violate the law.

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