Khaap of good hope
What can be indeed called a watershed moment in the history of local governance, Haryana’s biggest Khap panchayat summoned by Satrol khap in Hisar allowed for the first time inter-caste marriage to take place in the state. Khaps, or village and district-level civil administration bodies, had been until now at the forefront of perpetrating systemic discrimination on the basis of caste and religion, ordering innumerable honour killings in the name of tradition. In fact, khap has been synonymous with everything regressive, staunchly misogynist and anti-democratic in nature, issuing ludicrous proclamations like women must not wear trousers, should not have premarital sex, be killed for premarital sex (including rape!), should not be educated or sent to school, allowed to work and a number of other rulings that would send the modern-day cosmopolitan citizen into a tizzy. Moreover, khaps have also been behind preventing, often violently and brutally, inter-caste and inter-religious unions, thus perpetuating barbaric norms harking back to the middle ages, despite their being resolutely illegal and unconstitutional. But the latest development certainly brings in a whiff of fresh air and breathes in life into the morbid discourse and practice surrounding the khap system. For years, caste, gotra and even hometowns have been the crucible of exploitation, with khaps refusing to permit marriages of persons belonging to different sects. Now that the caste barrier has been lifted, it does pave the way for more such acts of righteousness. However, it must be remembered that this could only be read as the starting point of a long and arduous journey towards equanimity at the rural level, and putting an end to handed down prohibitions in the name of tradition.