The latest one, among the barrage of complaints, threats and sick jokes by Khap panchayats in Haryana is a demand that Hindu marriages in the same Gotra be banned by law.
They have various superstitious explanations for this demand, which are frankly too silly to dignify with an explanation here.
But what caught my eye was this line in a news story - "The Khap leaders at the meeting said when an amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act could be made for Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and Punjab, why this could not be done in Haryana."
Why indeed? What is so special about these amendments that they can be put in, but the silly demands of the Khaps are being kept out?
Luckily I, with a book and five minutes of reading, was able to do what apparently those self-proclaimed 'leaders' of the Khap Panchayat are unable to do - read an act.
They got this much right - the 1955 act has been amended for demands made in Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Puducherry. Obviously someone told them this much.
But no one seems to have mentioned, or the Khaps didn’t bother to find out what the amendments actually were.
Let me enlighten us all -
Tamil Nadu -
The Hindu Marriages (Madras Amendment) Act, 1967, which was incorporated as section 7-A in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
This amendment has been inserted to give legal validity to secular marriages, i.e. marriages between Hindus who DO NOT wish to use priests or follow traditional rituals. The secular marriage may be in the presence of friends and relatives and by exchanging garlands or rings, and still be a valid marriage.
Chapter II, Section 7, Comments of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
This amendment was added to give legal validity to a traditional Punjabi form of remarriage, known as Karewa. Any remarriage of a widow or widower performed under the Karewa ritual is considered a valid marriage.
The 'amendment', if it can even be called that outside legal circles, merely extends the act and the Tamil Nadu amendment of 1967 into Puducherry. This special mention was needed because Puducherry is a Union territory.
So basically these Khaps want their pointless, improvable superstition be given the same consideration as rights to non-religious people who want to get married, widows who want to remarry and the extension of acts to Union territories.
(Are they thinking, should their act pass, then Chandigarh will escape their jurisdiction?)
If girls and boys were not being brutally raped, robbed and murdered daily by so-called 'men' in Haryana, the sheer level of ignorance shown by these people could be funny.
But sadly it is not.
These men, and they are nearly all men, could have used that extensive control they so openly boast of having in Haryana to curb rapes and other crime. Instead they are busy protecting each other, while dismissing crimes against women as one of those things that happen.
Like power-hungry people everywhere, Khaps prefer to focus on the things that enforce their own grip. And so, dreaming about a past where their every word was law, they keep pushing for a retreat to those times by trying to get their beliefs the legitimacy of the law.
In India, people have the right to believe whatever they want, so long as they do not force the rest to do the same.
In their desperate search for amendments, they clearly did not read that part of the Constitution or the laws. (Actually it usually appears they didn’t read any of it, ever.)
These Khaps only want to cynically exploit the honest efforts of those who strove to bring equality and progress to India to push their own backward agenda.
Like cowards and criminals everywhere, Khaps usually trot out words like honour, shame, modern culture, changing times etc to justify horrific crimes against men and women. Then they hide behind these words, imagining that no one can see right through.
Those who are unwilling to protect the weak, to provide justice to the wronged, to work for the benefit of the all are both shameless and completely without honour whatsoever.
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