Khaps and Modern India

You believe you know your society, your religion, your caste quite well. And then suddenly that delusion is completely shattered! I thought horrible things like honor killings were part of medieval cultures and Hindu society had largely moved beyond such terrible customs. Not true!

In a shocking case that come to light a few weeks ago, a Khap (sort of like a Panchayat) in Haryana ordered and successfully carried out the killing of a couple. Their crime: Marrying within the same sub-caste (or gotra).

Subsequently, a court in Karnal sentenced five people involved in the crime to death. That should have been the end of the case. On a more practical note, that should have been the beginning of the usual decade long appeals process where those five individuals would have begged the Indian state for mercy.

Not so! The Khap leaders are defiant. They don’t even claim that the crime didn’t occur. Rather they are fighting for their right to order such killings in the future! Here are some snippets from an HT article which covered one of the recently held protest rallies.

An assembly of 36 self-styled caste councils on Tuesday vowed to fight for the seven people convicted – five of them sentenced to death – by a Karnal court for their roles in an honour killing.

Several speakers said the authorities should not interfere in centuries-old traditions, as social norms were above the law

Former Haryana Police chief M.S. Malik, said, “We don’t want a Constitution or a law that goes against our age-old tradition. We feel strongly against the media for naming Khaps, accepted for the last 3,000 years, as Talibani Panchayats.”

I am sorry Mr. Malik, but the only way to earn the right to not be called Talibani Panchayats is by not doing things that Talibani Panchayats do! It is shameful that a retired IPS officer has such an attitude on upholding the rule of law and the Indian Constitution.

And finally, after all these events, it is the Judge who heard the case, who is running scared for her life. Indian Express reports that Justice Vani Gopal Sharma has requested a transfer from Karnal because she fears for her life after the Khaps have hardened their stance against the judgement pronounced by her!

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