Tuesday, May 25, 2010

खाप का पाप: Sins of the Khap and uber-urban modesty ablaze

Khap is a dreadful word. And not without its frightening reasons. These panchayats of of village clusters in Haryana, Western UP and parts of Rajasthan are notorious for their dictats. They go so far as to sentence people to death or excommunicate families, auction their lands or better take over their property. Their victims, the accused to them, seldom defy for the fear of losing their dear life. Recently, five people were sentenced to death by the law for killing a couple on the orders of the khap. The couple, Manoj and Babli, had married in spite of being from the same gotra. The Khap panchayats decided to fight for the murderers. Cornered, they also asked their MPs and MLAs to push for a law that bans intra-gotra marriage in a last-ditch effort to add some legitimacy to their stance against such unions. 

And the Metropolitan India was furious. TV anchors and convent-educated uber-urban Indians have launched a tirade against khap panchayats and question their legitimacy. Khap panchayats have no legitimacy, so their is no question of anything legal about them. In their war on Khaps, they started questioning the custom of inter-gotra marriages. Without understanding what gotra actually means and what it means to the society in north India in general, they have been throwing talk-show explosives at Navin Jindal, an industrialist and member of Parliament from Kurukshetra. His fault was that he attended a khap meeting where villagers asked him to submit their memorandum to the government. The memorandum sought a law barring same-gotra marriage in their community.

Now the so-called educated folks in Delhi are outraged. How can an educated, young MP like Jindal do it? Jindal says he is their representative and all he did was give them a hearing. But now they are asking him whether he too believes that people from the same gotra should not wed. He lies and says no he doesn't believe in such archaic things. He lies because 99.3 per cent of Haryanvis looking for life-partners on the internet believe in it. Imagine the uneducated, non-internet users. 
People simply do not believe in intra-gotra marriage because for centuries they have been told that people from your own gotra are your cousins and in some societies marrying your cousin is not kosher. They are told that you belong to the same blood line, hence  go get married elsewhere. Which in a way is good because it promotes inter-caste marriage, which is much desirable in a caste-ridden society like theirs.

Now the question comes what if two people fall in love and are from the same gotra? Well, then they should decide. The khaps can go to hell. But on the ground, such cases are few and far between. People from same gotra in these trouble torn areas don't fall in love with each other. Like people don't fall in love with their cousins in Delhi, they don't fall in love with their cousins in Jind. Even in Delhi, in an exceptional case, a boy falls in love with a girl without knowing she is his cousin, it's their business until their families find each other out and the fathers recognise each other. They will oppose no matter how educated they are. That's what is happening in Jind, except at a very rustic level. And in some cases, surfaces in a criminally violent way.

The khaps take it to a ridiculous extent and bar marriage within a village even if its inter-khap and not intra-khap. And when they behave like law unto themselves. That's the time for the law, the constitution to arrive and make them feel the presence of their rule. That's what happened when the murderers of Manoj and Babli got death. That is what will teach the khaps a lesson. But what urban India needs a lesson in is age-old customs and cultural nuances of our society and how to deal with them. You can't rubbish it all because it sounds unscientific to you. God is unscientific so is the multiplicity of faiths and beliefs. And before you say beliefs can't decide people's personal lives when we are all ruled by law, be reminded that we have chosen to have personal laws. There is a marriage act for Hindus which differs for different regions. There is personal law for Muslims and there will soon be a personal law for Sikhs. We have no uniform law governing our personal choices because we believe in diversity.

So for sake of diversity, accept diverse cultures. These village people are your own and as Indian as the rest of us. They have some customs and beliefs and they want the rest of India to respect that. Don't believe in what they say but allow them to say what they believe in. If in the name of that belief, they kill and maim, the criminal law should take care of that. Because criminal law is uniform for all. Punish those who kill their daughters in the name of honour. But in your blind homogenised world view, don't laugh at people's way of life. If you really dream of a modern India with people with all modern beliefs, mouthing the same language, boasting about same values and heartily accepting intra-gotra marriages, go back to sleep. If you wake up, be brave enough to see many different Indias in this one India.  


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मोहन वशिष्‍ठ 9991428447 said...

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DINESH said...
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