Haryana: Khap Panchayats Are Unconstitutional
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat *
When undemocratic societies masquerade as democracy then the result is the politics of symbolism and identities become more important than the issues. The murderer is not a murderer because he belongs to certain caste. The political statements are issued based on calculations of profit and loss during the elections. And the biggest victim is justice and rule of law. When every religious thug sits on judgment as moralist and describe the very phenomena as outcome of ‘external’ elements then one must ponder over, whether such primitive feudal ideological should be allowed to exit in the democratic set up and what could be the best way to counter such racist political outfits based on superiority of one particular caste or race.
Haryana suffer from many inadequacies. It also proves that building up huge economic infrastructures does not mean socio-cultural changes. It also suggests that mere focus on economic uplift of the people will not help. Haryana’s problem is that the forces of status quo are not ready to share the benefit of economic changes to all.
Studies have proved the dismal girl child ratio in Haryana. The female infanticides are actually practiced throughout the state. The men buy brides from other states and still not ready to learn a few lessons. Haryana tops in violence against Dalits as and whenever they assert about their identity and seek justice. The public land has been converted into Khap land most of the places and redistribution of land is a rare thing in Haryana. It never implemented land reform. Actually, the intermediary castes annexed even the public land which was supposed to be given to Dalits.
Haryana’s injustices are legitimized by the Khaps. When the Dalits were being killed, it asserted its own identity in the name of Gotra as it justified honored killings. It is the state where Honored killing are rampant, Khap as a unified social unit are the backbone of spreading caste hatred and denying justice to the people. If the powerful social mobilization in the name of Khaps were not there, we would have seen the culprits being brought to book after initial protests and media uproar in Delhi. But since the Khaps are the backbones of injustices in Haryana and it try to give an ideological-spiritual slant to the misdeeds of the upper caste goons and violators who perpetrate a crime and must be prosecuted in the due court of law. That way, each activity of Khaps is anti-constitution and hence the constitutional framework must be strong enough to deal with these undemocratic institutions which want to create a parallel administrative judicial process.
When the rape cases against Dalit women increased in Haryana, the Khap Panchayats blamed it to the victim themselves. ‘Government must ban fast food, noodles, as it is increasing ‘libido’ among youths which they cannot control and hence rape. Can there be a bigger joke than this. A Khapist gave an argument that the girls must be married at the early age so that they are ‘protected’ by their families. How are they protected by families and why has protection of a woman depend on her marital status. What happen to women who are violated in marriage? The recently passed Child Protection Act says that any sexual relation with a person below 18 years of age would be considered as ‘rape’. Do the Khap Panhayat want to amend this act too so that their early age factors are taken into consideration.
Let me be very candid here. Early marriage as a solution for ‘safety’ of girls is an old justification of child marriages and polygamy which is prevalent in many societies. To cover up the misdeed, a religious sanctity was provided to them but unfortunately India’s constitution has safe guard and is the biggest hindrance in the way of these criminals who want to bring back their primitive patriarchical feudal values. It is also unfortunate that many votaries of the primitive order actually blame the ‘modern’ system for this. First they blamed girls wearing Jeans and tight cloths for the same. But when the violence against women increased in home, and with children and old women, then they change their stand suggesting it is time to get the girls married at early age. Such criminal mind looks upon women only as a production unit without any independent identity.
Remember, the rape cases in Haryana and other parts of the country are not a result of ‘democracy’ or modern food habit. They have been happening and going unreported for years. Yes, the Khaps use women’s submission or subjugation due to culture as a tactic that violence did not happen in the past. Truly, democracy has helped the Dalits to question the dominance of Khaps and file cases against the perpetrators of the crime and not sitting at home in isolation and ignominy. The Dalit assertion is a real challenge to Khaps in Harayana and that is why Khap has spread its vicious wings to deviate the political question of taking them on. Khap are organised crime against Dalits and must be dealt with criminal justice system. Any legitimacy to Khap means undoing the historical justice through the Modern Democratic Constitution of India to millions of people of India who did not get justice in the regimes of Khaps in ancient times.
In the Khap scheme of things which is actually based on the principles of ‘Manu Smriti’, a woman has no independent identity and therefore talking about their rights over their bodies, sexuality is against our ‘culture’. Like any other prosecutors in public these days, the Khap also put onus of proving yourself as innocent on the victim itself. Hence, if a woman is violated, it is she who has to respond to all vilification and slur being carried out in her village. Khap have successfully isolated people who did not agree to their diktats and many places were responsible for killing of innocent lovers who fell in love. The state apparatus is virtually dysfunctional in the villages and it is difficult for people to get justice. They have successfully halted all the proceeding against criminals and have not come out against them openly. Similarly, we have seen how the Khap are silent on the rapes? Why the Khap don’t bring out a Fatwa against the perpetrators of such crime? The same people who would use the identity and caste card to isolate the marginalized communities. The Khaps have been voraciously opposed to inter caste marriages and thus ‘protecting’ their ‘purity’ of ‘caste’ as ascribed by Manu Smriti.
It is no secret that Khaps are undemocratic and are a parallel system within a system. If each caste and community will have their ‘judicial’ Panchayats then there is nobody who can save India. The political parties do not have the courage to speak against this organsied gangsters of caste. The tragedy with India is that Indian state and its secular constitution have virtually become prisoners of these Khapists everywhere. The state apparatus is non-functional as Khap has become the biggest strength of the criminals and hence it is they will provide life line to Khaps with active support of the political parties. Harayana has failed to provide protection to Dalit women from these criminals under protection from Khap as the Khap is a cover to all the misdeeds of the upper castes particularly Jats. A crime does not become ‘uncrime’ just because it is organized and a caste Panchayat has given it a different color. Such identification of crime based on your identity is a dangerous precedent and will ultimately damage the Indian state.
It is ironical that the Haryana, Western Uttar-Pradesh and Punjab were influenced by the Arya Samaj which many of the Hindus claim to be a reformist movement. It is these areas where economic boom reached first and ‘green revolution’ opened up door for the farmers to become bigger. Why then these areas are socially criminal in terms of social inequality, crime against Dalits and women? This is a serious question and probably activist will find as whether the reform movement of Dayanand Sarawasti here made the people gang up against Dalits and made them believe in Aryan supremacy. Haryana has become a lab for these unconstitutional Khaps to spread their vicious agenda and provide a social cover to those rapists, killers in the name of honor of the community. A strong political action is only possible when all the political parties agree to the common programme of fighting against injustice. Political will to implement constitution and rule of law so that these unconstitutional and parallel structures do not undermine our democracy. It is a wakeup call as caste panchayats are growing phenomena everywhere and have got sanctity from those who use identity as a card to justify their crime. Secular India need to dismantle these caste panchayats or isolated them.