Haryana caste council ‘rejects’ Hindu Marriage Act

Chandigarh, March 25 Virtually taking law into its own hands, a Khap mahapanchayat (caste-based council) in Haryana’s Jat heartland Tuesday “rejected” the Hindu Marriage Act and asked politicians to promise a new law as per its diktat if they wanted votes in the coming parliamentary elections.

The decision to reject the act came following a meeting of 46 khaps at Narwana town of Jind district, 180 km from Chandigarh, attended by 250 representatives of various khaps.

“The Hindu Marriage Act does not address intra-village or intra-gotra (sub-community) marriages. We want the politicians, who seek our Jat votes, to promise that a new law would be passed in Parliament to address our community issues,” Pawanjit Banwala, president of the Akhil Bhartiya Adarsh Jat Mahasabha, said.

“We will not spare anyone who defies our stand. Law is made for society, society is not made for law,” Banwala said.

The “rejection” of the Hindu Marriage Act comes within a week of an earlier decision of a khap panchayat in Singhwala village in Jind district, pronouncing a death sentence for a couple – Sonia and Ved Pal – from the same community who eloped to get married.

The orthodox caste system in Jat-dominated areas spread in Haryana, Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh prohibit marriage within the same gotra.

The khap mahapanchayat’s decision comes even as the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Chandigarh has taken cognizance of the extra-constitutional authority being assumed by these community-based bodies.

Justice Rajan Gupta has sought the intervention of the Chief Justice in regulating the khap panchayats.

A couple, Manoj and Babli, who had married in Jind district defying community norms, were killed in 2007 after a khap panchayat issued a death sentence against them for getting married in violation of societal norms.

There have been nearly a dozen other instances of couples being killed or brutally assaulted or their families being excommunicated from the community for marrying against norms.

“We will not tolerate these marriages as these can lead to medical disorders in the progeny born to such couples. A boy and girl from the same community or village are brother and sister,” Banwala claimed.

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