R.D. Bhardwaj “Noorpuri”
Khap Panchayat are working in some states, and they more aggressive / active in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajashthan and Madhya Pradesh and their members are often unelected people from the Jat community, who belong to the dominant upper caste. Whenever, some discord is discussed by them in which the conflict surfaces between the people of their caste and the Dalits, often their take decisions which are bad in taste, illogical and illegal in the eyes of law. Not only that, their decisions also turn out to be contrary to the interests of lower caste people who are generally Dalits, marginalized, oppressed and economically weaker sections of the Society.
The latest case which has caught of eye and imagination of the people happened in District Baghpat of Uttar Pradesh, where a young boy called Ravi fell in love with a girl from the same village and they wanted to marry. The girl belongs to the dominant / influential Jat caste but the boy belongs to the Dalit family. Their relationship was frowned upon by the upper caste people and as they did not like their daughter to be married off to a Dalit boy. As the boy and girl were both majors and Jat family fearing that they might not take recourse to the Court Marriage, they forcibly separated them and later on, hurriedly married their daughter off to another man in February.
As the girl was also equally desirous of marrying the Dalit boy and live their lives together, contrary to the wishes of her Jat parents and in-laws, she later on escaped from her in-laws home and eloped with Ravi on 22nd March this year and started living the boy and is reported to be pregnant these days. But the hegemonic Jat community took it as their grave insult and called a meeting of the Khap Panchayat. Needless to say, all members of such Khap Panchayats are economically and politically dominant people from Jat community and they took one-sided decision. Nobody took into consideration that their daughter is also an equal partner in their decision of living together in the Dalit family and by the virtue of having attained the age of marriage, she too is capable of taking decisions about her future.
But the abhorrent Khap Panchayat announced its decision that – since the Dalit boy has violated the rules framed by them, his family shall have to undergo severe punishment as a result of staying together with their daughter. They based their decision based on the medieval principle : “An eye for an eye and honour for the honour.” Thus, the barbaric Khap issued a diktat that both the sisters of the Dalit boy shall be raped and paraded naked in their village street as a revenge for their brother’s action of eloping with a girl from the Jat community.
Fearing for their life, the Dalit family went to the Police Station to lodge a complaint against diktat of the Khap order, but they were shunted out. They also knocked the doors of many influential people of the area to save their lives and home, but all went in vain. Finding no saviour coming forward to impart justice and protect them, both the sisters of boy (who are just 23 and 15 years old) have fled from their home and come to Delhi. The male members of family too have fled from the village as otherwise, they might have been killed.
Coming to Delhi, the Dalit family has now filed case in Supreme Court to protect their lives. They have also alleged in her complaint to the Apex court that their family home in the village has been ransacked and taken over by the powerful Jat community members, following which they had no other option but to escape to Delhi
It is pertinent to mention here that, in another matter relating to the Khap Panchayts, the Supreme Court has already described such bodies as ‘kangaroo courts’ and branded their decrees illegal, yet in some states they continue to operate and their punishments are often carried out, as local police and local leaders simply turn a blind eye to the deeds of Khap Panchayats, because their bigger concern seems to be vote bank and certainly not to see – as to who is going suffer physically, economically and / or psychologically in society. Helping the aggrieved party to get justice often takes the back seat.
But the moot question one wonders – why even the law enforcing agencies fails to take punitive / remedial action on the people who announce such barbaric diktats, totally in disregard of rules and laws as given in constitutions of the country ? It is often observed that the police generally acts in collusion with the dominant upper caste people, including conducting raids, beating in custody, failure to charge the offenders or investigate the reported crimes on lower caste people. Thus, the lower echelons of society in rural areas live in constant fear of punishment or public humiliation, also because the Jats are the land holders and lower caste people have to work as farm labourers on their fields.
And mind it, this is not the first such case where the Khap Panchayat has given a very bad decision, rather it would be better to say that they have gained notoriety in announcing such bad / wrong / illegal and hegemonic dictates in the past as well. And they are able to pronounce such nasty judgements shredding the long due interests of the Dalits and / or other people from the lower strata of society because people who are responsible to protect them according to law, they generally and miserably fail in their duty to do so. The society turns bad not because of the bad people only, but also due to the negligent behaviour of good people who indirectly provoke the bad people in society to execute their ill-wills.
Since the matter has again come to notice of the Supreme Court, now it becomes all the more important for it to take strict punitive action of these khaps and announce that no such Khap Panchayats shall be held in future and the people who have already given barbaric verdict in this Baghpat case, should also be booked and given exemplary punishment so that such courts functioning in other states also take a lesson out of it.