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Khap Panchayat in India

Khap is a cluster of villages united by caste and geography.It is as old as 14th century started by upper caste jats to consolidate their power and position.The main rule is that all boys and girls within a khap are considered siblings.

Khap panchayat governs the khap formed by same gotra ( clan) families from several neighbouring villages.Khap panchayats are prevalent in Haryana,western Uttar Pradesh and Parts of Rajasthan.Love marriages are considered taboo in areas governed by Khap panchayats.Those living in a Khap are not allowed to marry in the same gotra or even in any gotra from the same village.Many young couples have been killed in the past defying khap rules.

Khap panchyat imposes its writ through social boycotts and fines and in most cases end up either killing or forcing the victims to commit suicide.All this is done in the name of brotherhood and its honour. It is due to the inherent weakness of democratically elected Panchayati Raj institutions,Khap panchayats have been powerful. Even the government has not done much to control their power.

The 10-15 men who constitute a Khap settle disputes and control the lives of young people. Many village people also defend these caste panchayats as they deliver the verdict in one sitting whereas court cases drag for years.According to them ,in many cases innocent people get harassed in the court and by police.Here as everyone is known so they cross check everything to ensure neutrality.

In some Haryana villages, the young girls are routinely threatened, abused and killed all under Khap verdicts. It is acceptable for the families to feed pesticide pills to the teenage girls and then dispose off their bodies by burning them without any police records. The entire onus of siblinghood rests on the girl. She is the keeper of village honor.Sometimes rules are bend for the boys but a girl is never allowed to bend the rules. If a couple run away then the families risk the boycott and hefty fines in lakhs of rupees.Even the other women of the house can suffer abuse.

In keeping with the khap rules ,older villages try to keep the young people apart.Some schools are also forced to have separate timings for the boys and girls.Fearing their daughters would go astray,many parents marry them off at an early age.People have unquestionable faith in the justice of khap.The question of rights for women does not exist any where in the territories ruled by Khap panchayats.

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