ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Above the Law

How may the "traditional" authority of the caste panchayats be undermined?

Caste panchayats, or khaps as they are called, have traditionally settled all kinds of disputes between caste members despite the presence of elected local bodies, an anomaly that has been accepted without much protest from any quarter. However, many of these caste panchayats, especially in Haryana, have not only been openly defying the law but, of late, have also sanctioned murder and abduction in cases where members have refused to follow their diktats. They continue to do this with no fear that the political class or the civil and police administration will in any way take them to task.

Just how invincible these caste panchayats feel they are, can be seen from the mob lynching of 22-year old Ved Pal Mor in July even as he was being “protected” by a group of 15 policemen on the orders of the high court. The Banwala gotra panchayat of Haryana’s Jind district had issued a death warrant against the youth because he and his wife had defied her parents and got married in March this year. In the state’s Jhajjar district, another caste panchayat’s decision to force Ravinder Gehlot’s family out of their home because he married a girl from a “brotherly gotra” is now before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. In 2007, the Bombak gotra panchayat in Karnal had actually snatched a 10-day old baby from his parents because both of them belonged to the same gotra and hence their marriage was deemed “invalid”. The infant was later returned to the parents, thanks to the public uproar generated by intense media coverage. These are just a sample of the many cases being reported in the media in the past few years.

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