Shafiq R Khan

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Honouring Dalits With Blood

Once, I asked writers who had already written on the issue of ‘Khap Panchayats’ that “what’s the role played by caste in the brutalities of ‘Khap Panchayat’ i.e. how Dalits suffer in ‘Khap Panchayat’ system? They replied there is no such survey or measure available to check out this, ‘Dalits’ are killed when they marry in another caste but in Haryana the problem is of ‘Khap’ (marrying within ‘Khap’) or the other replied ‘Khap Panchayats’ are against modernization’ not against “Dalit’. I wasn’t satisfied with the answers, so I tried to search and write this article explaining with brief history what led the increase in the number of Khap Panchayat’s illegal decrees, ‘fatwas’ against Dalits.

‘Khap’ (group of 84 villages) is a system of social administration and organization in northern India (highly influencing in Haryana, Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh). Khap Panchayat’s whole-sole motive/purpose is to work and maintain clan/caste system alive (which they have done with perfection!) and they have always worked as anti-Dalit, anti-women, and anti-modernization. Sometimes these ‘Khap Panchayats’ are equated with ‘Kangaroo Courts’, which are the ‘sham legal proceedings’ and which are set-up in order to give the impression of a fair legal process.

Why Dominated Landlords Are Furious

Jajmani system under which there was some interdependence between the landlords and Dalit agricultural labors, but after the green revolution (in 1970s) the dependence of Dalits on landlords decreased to some extent. This Jajmani system was broken up and Dalits got liberated from bonded labors after green revolution.

What troubled more was ‘73rd amendment (in 1992) of Indian constitution’ which reserved seats for Dalits in Gram Panchayats, Panchayat Samitis, Zilla Parishids (district councils) according to the Dalit population. Now, it was obvious for so called upper caste landlords to be annoyed with Dalits as Dalits were ready to sit beside them. How could upper caste people have tolerated this when they have been forcing Dalits to drink their urine in ‘juttis’ (shoes, sleepers) for thousands of years?

Is there any need to discuss about reservation’s impact on the social status of Dalits? Reservation has always made anxious to so called upper caste people.

Another reason for the increased visibilities of such crimes is the rise in global level education, economic opportunities for everyone (including Dalits) in Haryana, which made possible love/inter-caste/inter-community marriages.

I agree to some extent when people say ‘Khap Panchayats’ are against modernization as ‘Khap Panchayats’ banned playing cricket at many places like in district Jind (Haryana) after the poor performance of team India in world cup. Ban hardly remained in force for few weeks afterwards everyone forgot about the ban and cricket become as popular as it was. In another district, Rohtak (Haryana) ‘Khap Panchayats’ banned the usage of DJ’s in marriages giving the reason that it ‘disturbs animals’, it was done under the ‘animal welfare’! (They value for animals more than human! In places like Rajasthan, state government has established “Rajasthan GAO (cow) Seva commission.” In this scheme special shelters are being created for 6 Lac cows. In addition to this 5 Arab, 24 crores & 85 Lakhs rupees has already been spent by Rajasthan Govts on these cows.) These bans were effective for few days only, but the ban on expelling Dalits from village, boycotting Dalits remains effective for life long.

Righteous Kill: Stark Realities

It is estimated that every year hundreds of married couples are murdered, are asked to leave the village, are asked to break their marriages and accept each other as brother-sister, are paraded naked, and blackened their faces by their families in order to regain/retain ‘family honour’, on the ill-fated instructions of ‘Khap Panchayat’. And mostly those suffer in these crimes are Dalits. The decisions about killing, burning homes, raping Dalit women etc are taken by these “Khap Panchayats” collectively at the open places without any fear. It’s not always the family of boy or girl (as promoted by these ‘Khap Panchayat’) who kills or orders to kill but the ‘Khap Panchayat’ members plays an active role in executing rapes, murders. If they (boy/girl) escape, their family members are being murdered/killed, gang-raped or fined heavily.

In Jhajjar, (Haryana) which is developing fast (coming NTPC thermal power plant and AIIMS-like hospital) but the condition of Dalits is as miserable as was 100s years ago in the area. Social boycott of Dalits in this area is common thing. Number of cases of caste killing/honour killing are being reported from this area. Recently, an upper caste girl tried to marry lower-caste boy, girl’s sister was helping in this. But both the girls were found dead in next day. In Dadri, District Bhiwani of Haryana caste panchayat ordered boycott the newlywed couple, ordered them to ‘escape from village’ and their families were fined heavily. Two years back in district Kaithal (Haryana) a couple was killed and their bodies were thrown in river on the orders of these ‘Caste Panchayats’, in another case, a couple was killed and their dead bodies were kept in front of everyone in village so as ‘everyone can learn a lesson from this’.

All these acts of ‘Khap Panchayats’ are not limited to Haryana only, you can see the impact of ‘Khap Panchayats’ in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab also. Recent days in district Muzaffarpur of Uttar Pradesh a women was raped by her ‘father in law’ and ‘Khap Panchayat’ ordered she should accept his ‘husband as a son.’ In another district Saharanpur, 40 years old women was paraded naked in village and ‘Khap Panchayat’ ordered to rape her 17 years old daughter and people acted on the same lines. Police didn’t even register the case. In Meerut district, almost same happened when inter-caste marriage happened.

After two days of ‘International Human Rights Day’, on 12th December, 2009 while commuting death sentences of two persons involved in honour killings ‘Supreme Court’ accepted ‘caste’ as a ‘stark reality’ in honour killings said “The ‘caste’ is such a concept that grips a person even before his birth and does not leave him even after his death the vicious grip of the caste, community, religion, though totally unjustified, is a stark reality.”

On the same day (12th December, 2009) another landmark judgment came from Judicial Magistrate, (though after 11 years of case proceedings!) which imposed fine on ‘Khap Panchayat’ for issuing a fatwa excommunicating a person from the ‘Khap’ and calling for his social boycott. This is the first time that any court in Haryana has penalized a ‘Khap Panchayat’. In another news on 25th November, 2009 ‘The International Jat Intellectual Meet’ calls for drive against honour killings. I seriously doubt the goodwill intensions of these decisions as this can be just to show the ‘world’ that we are concerned about humanity, mankind while celebrating ‘International Human Rights Day’.

Nothing happens to people like Mahendra Singh Tikait, farmer leader in western Uttar Pradesh when speaking on behalf of ‘Khap Panchayats’ he comments like ‘only whores chose their own partners.’ Why no action was taken against him, who degraded the whole women society?

Denying ‘Constitution’, Implementing ‘Manusmriti’

Article 13(1) and 13(2) of ‘Constitution’ deals with the “Laws inconsistent with or in derogation of the fundamental rights” and it’s clearly written under

Article 13(1) “All laws in force in the territory of India immediately before the commencement of this Constitution, in so far as they are inconsistent with the provisions of this Part, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void.” and

Article 13(3a) “ ‘law’ includes any Ordinance, order, bye-law, rule, regulation, notification, custom or usage having in the territory of India the force of law.”

Though everything is written so plainly in ‘Constitution’ of India about the equal rights for everyone, irrespective of religion, caste, color, creed, etc; even today after 60 years of Independence, ‘Khap Panchayat’ are greatly influencing and are capable of petrifying people in the northern region. By keeping ‘Khap Panchayats’ alive aren’t Government’s trying to make Manu smile?

On The Part of Governments and Dalits

Much has been written and said about the issue of ‘Khap Panchayats’ by intellectuals and academician but there has always been a lack of any initiative to dissolve ‘Khap Panchayats’ or call these illegal on the part of Government. Not even a single leader has ever stood against (forget about the standing against this system, many local leaders of congress and other parties have glorified acts of ‘Khap Panchayat’) this cruel system, which may be because of Government’s own petty political reasons. Another thing, why all these killings are clubbed together in the list of ‘murders’, if we can have separate laws for ‘Sati’ and ‘Dowry’ then why can’t we have separate special laws to handle these ‘Khap Panchayats’?

Lack of representation of Dalits in police, print media is also a severe problem. Further, serious issue is of divisions among Dalits and lack of able Dalit leadership in the region, people on the name of Dr Ambedkar are fighting to prove that they are real ‘Karva Pullers’ of Dr Ambedkar, but reality lies somewhere else! There is a strong need of active participation of everyone including NGOs, police, Panchayat bodies and serious/strong laws (not merely paper tigers!) against the crimes of ‘Khap Panchayat”.

P.S.: I am grateful to Advocate Dr S L Virdi, being my source of inspiration, encouragement and whose article on the same issue published in Punjabi magazine “Begampura Saher” was helpful for fulfilling my quest.

Pardeep Singh Attri on http://www.countercurrents.org/attri110110.htm

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