Khap Panchayats in India

Topics: Caste system in India, Marriage, Local government in India Pages: 14 (5667 words) Published: February 4, 2012
Casteism has been prevalent in the Indian society since the times immemorial. Ill-treatment at the hands of the people belonging to the upper caste was a common practice for the people belonging to the lower castes. The decisions in various issues were made by the upper castes mostly in favour of their own caste. The punishment for a crime was much more severe for the individual of a lower caste as compared to the punishment awarded for the same crime to the individual of a higher caste. The rules made were incorporated in such a manner as to benefit the ones who made them (i.e. the upper caste). The women had little say in the working of the society in most parts of the country and had to abide by the rules (some of which were unjust/sexist in nature) made by the men of the upper caste. This dominance of the people of the upper caste often led to conflicts with the people of the subordinated caste and led to the imbalance in the society. With the coming of the social reform movement in India, people raised their voices against some of the norms/customs. Situation slowly improved but people mostly stuck to their roots. Post-independence, as democracy was introduced, proper laws were framed; both for the equality of men and women as well as for the equality among the castes. Though most of the ills carried over the centuries still prevailed, the situation for the lower caste people improved. The sway the religious leaders held over their followers was on the decline. People became more and more open minded and the society started to look like an equal platform as compared to the earlier conditions that had prevailed over a long period of time. The overall situation gradually improved as the lower caste people started settling down in cities and were given equal consideration for the jobs although some of the traditional customs still survived. In other words, despite the efforts, hierarchy and domination rooted in the casteism prevailed. Instead of changing with time, the religious authorities held firm their ground. To assert their presence, the like-minded people formed groups and resorted to the traditional (sometimes violent) methods to enforce the age old customs followed in the society. Post-independence, many such groups have resurfaced from time to time and have been responsible for enforcing the old customs again in the society. The recent killings/threats to kill in the name of honour and social alienation have once again brought the caste-based discriminations and conflicts in the society to the fore. The Khap panchayats are openly challenging the laws and the undermining of the caste authority. This report is aimed at discussing the policies of the Khap panchayats, their working, their ideology (related to different matters such as marriages, issuing of fatwas etc.) and finally the impact of the Khap panchayats on the society.

What is a Khap?
Khap is a term used for a socio-political grouping and is used mostly in the political sense. It is thought to be derived from the Latin word corpus which means an organisation of individuals. Some other terms which are used commonly are Pal, Ganas, Ganasanghas, Janapadas or republic. According to some, the word Khap is desired from the Saka word Satrapy or Khatrapy, and means an area inhabited by a particular clan. The political unit of Khap is a group of 84 villages. The Indian society was organised in villages in a republican form from the early days. The panchayats were an integral part of the kshatriya-dominant villages. In Jats, the mode of governing was that of a council of five or the Panchayats as referred to in various religious texts. These republican societies have seen many forms of government rule over them but still have managed to sustain the test of time. Each village used to have its panchayat which consisted of the elders of the village, who were not elected but were generally accepted by all to represent their interests and to perform...
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