'Khap panchayats' or caste councils in Haryana's Jat-dominated rural areas have in recent years run a lawless writ of their own with law-enforcing agencies choosing to look the other way. However, for the first time a court in Haryana has cut short their murderous run.
The khaps have tried to separate legally married couples, or declared them 'brother and sister', got some of them brutally killed, snatched a six-day-old infant from his parents and even sold him. They have ostracized several families for not falling in line with their diktats.
That is not all. They even banned the game of cricket in 28 villages in Jind district after India's dismal performance in the 2007 cricket World Cup in West Indies.
Some of the unlawful decisions taken by khap panchayats all over Haryana are:
- The honour killing of Manoj, 23, and Babli, 19, a newly-married couple of Karoran village near the state's Kaithal town, 120 km from here, because they belonged to the same 'gotra' (community) in June 2007.
Their community khap declared their marriage void. The couple eloped to get married May 18, 2007. They could not even complete a month of married life.
- A Beniwal khap panchayat February this year ordered annulling of the three-year-old marriage of Satish Berwal and Kavita Beniwal because of 'bhaichara' (brotherhood) between the two gotras in Kheri village of Meham subdivision in Rohtak district. The panchayat declared the marriage annulled and said the couple were siblings. They said the couple's son Raunak would remain with his mother while the groom's family would give Rs.300,000 to the mother for the child's upbringing.
- A young man, Vedpal, was lynched by nearly 400 villagers at Singhwal village in Jind district July 2009 after the Bhanwala khap opposed the marriage on the ground that the couple belonged to neighbouring villages and hence were siblings. The khap awarded death sentence to the youth and pressurised the woman's family to marry her to another youth.
- In August 2009, the marriage of Ravinder Gehlout with Shilpa Kadyan in Dharana village in Jhajjar district was opposed by the Kadyan Barha khap. It expelled the entire family of the youth, including his parents, grand-parents and uncles' families from their native village. This was on the ground that a Kadyan gotra (clan) girl could not be accepted as bride in the 12 villages of Kadyan gotra situated in Jhajjar district.
- A Rathi village council in Asanda village in Jhajjar district of Haryana in 2005 asked a couple, Sonia and Rampal - who had been married for over a year - to renounce their marriage and live as brother and sister as they were from the same lineage. The Punjab and Haryana High Court took strong exception to the matter and ordered the state government to ensure protection to the couple.
- A 6-day-old infant was snatched from his parents because they belonged to the same lineage. After refusing to react for five days, the authorities finally recovered the infant and restored him to his parents. The village council ordered that the couple, Pawan and Kavita, should live separately as they were brother and sister. The khap even sold the child but were forced to return him to the parents.
- Another couple in Rohtak district faced a similar fate. The khap panchayat of Sundana village, pronounced the ouster of 21-year-old Karambir and 19-year-old Pooja, for 'bringing dishonour' to their families. The khap panchayat said that the couple hailed from the neighbouring villages and they were therefore brother and sister.
- In February this year, a khap panchayat in Samaspur village of Bhiwani district ordered a family to leave their village after the son, Sribhagwan Megha, married Anita Phougat. The khap declared that the couple belonged to the same gotra (clan) and could not be married.