Notoriety of Khap Panchayats !

R.D. Bhardwaj “Noorpuri”

The Khap Panchayat has done it again, to assert its false, unconstitutional and undemocratic supremacy. Going by the “Mail Today” news item which has appeared in its 1st October, 2012 issue, it is gathered that the Khap Panchayat has held a meeting at village Kohi in District Reewari of Hariyana and issued an order / diktat for the social boycott of the families of a boy – Bhagirath and a girl called Sunita, in case they do not disown their children. It is further reported that this young couple named Bhagirath and Sunita has developed strong sentiments of love and affection towards each other despite belonging to the same Gotra or clan and have married in April last year. The young love birds have married defying the socially accepted norms, customs and traditions relating to the Hindu marriages and also have a child now. It is pertinent to mention here that this young couple belongs to the Dalit families and sensing / fearing a threat to their life, they have also fled from their village and have approached the Rajasthan High Court for seeking security for them, as the big and influential people in the village’s social hierarchy (members of Khap Panchayat) are deadly against them and are bent upon nullifying / ruining their married life, despite the fact that a baby has also arrived in their family now.

It is also relevant to mention here that this is no the first or the casual case where Khap Panchayat has interfered and declared the marriage of the young couples belonging to the same Gotras as null and void. So many incidents of their uncalled for and illegal interruptions have been noticed and reported in the print and electronics media earlier also, particularly in the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Not only that, in some of the cases, young boys and girls daring to marry despite attracting strong opposition from the Khap Panchayats, had to pay the price with their precious lives, even though the fact remains that these kind of Khap Panchayats do not have any legal or constitutional authority to issue such diktats or orders to the people living in the rural areas in the above mentioned three states. It is just by the virtue or vice of their economic and social hegemony that they continue to assert their illegitimate pressure and influence on the people, particularly on the lower and poorer strata of society, i.e. Dalits to say the specific. It is also being perpetually done because of the implied and tacit understanding of most of the political leaders in power in these states. And these leaders have miserably failed in their constitutional duty towards of have-nots of the society, on more than one front and on more than one occasion. The big landlords and Jats etc. continue to harass and victimise the Dalits of the villages and neither Police nor political leaders help them to stop this menace.

Let us now delve a bit deeper into the malaise of the same Gotra or same clan marriages in the historical perspective. Shuffling over the pages of Indian history, here I am reminded of the times of Mahabharata. Every one is aware that during Mahabharata, Pandava Prince Arjuna had married Subhadra, who was his second wife. And this Subhadra was the real cousin sister of Arjuna, as mother of Arjuna (Kunti) was sister of Lord Krishna’s father (Vasudev) and both of them were Hindus. And, as everybody is aware that according to the Hindu customs and traditions relating to marriages, particularly in the northern India, marriages between cousins are strictly forbidden, because they are considered as brothers and sisters. But when Lord Krishna realised that His own sister Subhadra loves and adores Pandav prince Arjuna, Lord Krishna not only inspired Subhadra to elope with Arjuna, (as otherwise, their elder brother – Balram, had already made plans to marry her to the Kaurav prince Duryojan), but also advised Arjuna to kidnap Subhadra and flee with her from their kingdom – Dwarika, in case he really wants to marry the girl closer to his heart. Not only that, Lord Krishna also advised Arjuna to make Subhadra his charioteer so that the blame of kidnapping her does not fall on him. And after the storm of the anger and agitations against Arjuna engineered by their elder brother Balram had subsided and their pent-up sentiments had settled down, Lord Krishna convinced every one in their court that it was their own sister – Subhadra who herself drove away with Arjuna and also that the choice of finding a suitable match for the girl should be better left to her – was accepted by one and all present there. Thereafter, their marriage was solemnised with all related religious customs and traditions.

One thing more I would like to emphasize here that Lord Krishna was God himself, and during those times, who was better or bigger interpreter of religion and morality than Lord Krishna himself? But when He himself realised that Arjuna and Subhadra love and adore each other truly, He too bowed before the wishes of their love and sentiments and thus, He not only willingly agreed to their marriage but heartily bestowed His blessings on the young couple as well.

Now let us take another example from the pages of history. The 12th century chivalrous Rajput King of Ajmer, Prithviraj Chauhan (1149-1192) had not only loved Sanyogita or Sanyukta, but also kidnapped her and later on married her, much against the wishes of her parents. Both belonged to the Hindu families and Sanyogita was none other than Prithviraj’s own cousin sister (Mausi Ki Ladki), as she was daughter of Jai Chander, the King of Kannauj. Now everybody is aware that the Hindu religion does not matrimonial alliance between cousins as they are treated as brother and sister, but none had guts and courage to tell Prithviraj not to look at Sanyogita with this type of intention, which is considered as incest accordingly to the Hindu beliefs. But least bothering about the prevailing customs and traditions etc., Prithviraj moved forward and married her.

Many more examples of marriages between cousin and same Gotra / clan can be given even from the recent history, but the fact remains that the big and wealthy people hardly care for what other say or opine about their relationships. Religious customs and traditions are generally accepted and respected by the poor and middle class families only. Nevertheless, one more thing, I would like to emphasise here is that, by reading up to this level, please don’t jump to the conclusion or presume that I am in favour of same Gotra or clan marriages in Hindu families. But on the contrary, personally speaking, I am totally against such type of marriages, as the modern medical science has made it abundantly clear that while seeking matrimonial alliances, efforts should be better made to go beyond your own clan / Gotra etc., as if such a (same Gotra) marriage takes place, the children to be born out of that wedlock, shall have lower IQ level and shall also be susceptible to a number of diseases, as genes of both the parents have not been allowed to be different. Moreover, physical and mental traits of the kids shall also remain almost at the same level and there is very little likelihood of its moving up the ladder of intelligence. That is why, in Punjab, when finding a suitable match for the boy or girl, we keep in mind the Gotras of Father, Mother, Daadi and Naani and ensure that these four Gotras do not match with the Gotras of girl’s aforesaid four relations.

Last, but not the least, if the young boy and girl, least caring for the Gotras of their parents, think about their marriage, no doubt they should be made aware of the deficiencies which are likely to occur in their future life and their next generation, but if the young people does not care for these things to be avoided, it should be better left to themselves. Khap Panchayats should try to nullify their marriage or exercise any threat to them, because the matter is outside their domain. Moreover, such Panchayats should also keep in mind that they are not the elected bodies of the village, rather it is the Gram Panchayats who are legally empowered to exercise some influence on the people.

While discussing about the Khap Panchayats, it is observed that 9/10 cases of rape or gang rapes have taken place in Haryana alone during the last one month. One of the victims, a sixteen years old girl who was gang-raped around a week ago by the boys of the same village in Distt. Jind, has not only gone into depression, but also committed suicide by setting herself on fire after pouring kerosene oil over her body. But these Khap Panchayats have again miserably failed to rise upto the occasion and criticise and condemn the culprits who have committed such heinous crimes on girls / women. Why ? Don’t they have any sympathy for those victims or they simply avoid such ghastly acts of the criminals because majority of them are rich and influential people of their own community. Not only that, it is also observed that on many occasions, when some friction abrupt amongst the Jats and Dalits of their village, houses of the Dalits are set on fire, but even then these Khap Panchayats maintain their studied silence on those ghastly crimes. Thus, it can be observed that these Khap Panchayats act and speak only on the matters which are convenient to them and to maintain their false hegemony in society. It is also observed that most of the leaders of all political parties also prefer not to act or speak on the atrocities committed by Jats on Dalits in these states, may be also due to fear of political backlash.

While on the bad customs and traditions made by the big and influential people of the village society of Rajasthan, it is not out of place to mention here that in Village Dangariya of Distt. Dausa, Dalit members of the village are compelled to take off their shoes and slippers etc. while passing in front of or crossing the houses of the upper caste people. Not only that, Dalit youths are also prohibited from riding on horse backs while their marriage procession is proceeding towards the houses of the brides. What a derogatory rule made for the Dalits of the village and is mischievously allowed to prevail even after 65 years of Indian having gained freedom and untouchability has been declared a crime by law. Why these Khap Panchayats don’t speak against such draconian and Talibani diktats or orders and bad practices which are totally undemocratic in the eyes of the law and curtail the freedom of one caste or community and makes them subservient to others in society?
All such incidents and events are nothing but glaring examples of notoriety of the Khap Panchayats going on in all the three states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan. The sooner these are addressed to properly, the better it would be for all the sections of society, because, otherwise, dictates of the Khap Panchayats not perpetuate unwanted and undesired friction amongst the various section of society, but it also leads to discrimination on basis of caste and community, besides being contrary to the spirit of fundamental rights of all the citizens. I would also like to suggest that the rape of a minor girl should be treated at par with murder and the man committing such crime should be awarded death penalty and all such case should be decided with expeditiously, preferably within two years. Not only that the undemocratic, illegal and Talibani wings of these Khap Panchayats should also be clipped and if they announce such an order in future, they should also be awarded huge and exemplary financial penalty.