Haryana Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar’s statement, “It is not wrong to say that Khap Panchayats always work in a wrong manner,” sparked a new debate. By saying so the CM also cited support to these kangaroo courts asserting that they are a ‘useful instrument’ in the society. This despite the strange punishments they have forced people to met with.
Declared unconstitutional in 2011 by Supreme Court, they yet continue to exist. Since then, they have been called as Kangaroo courts. But certain times, their decisions have terribly gone wrong. Their punishments have mocked victims’ agony. But they won’t budge.
Nearly five years after they lost their status, they are popular for their strange laws and decisions they took. Recently, a Baghpat district Khap Panchayat in Uttar Pradesh ordered 10 slaps for the man who killed his wife. Her family was also warned against taking the matter to the police. Somewhere in a Nashik Village, a widow was asked to drape in a transparent cloth and take bath in front of the Khap Panchayat after her brother in law claimed that she had an illegitimate relationship with a man. She reported the issue to the police. In another incident, Khap Panchayat of Bareilly told a 32 year old man to touch a woman’s feet as a punishment for raping her.
2015 had its own share of Khap decisions. A Khap Panchayat of Sulkhani village in Haryana ordered a newly married couple to end their legal marital status and start living as siblings because they were from the same gotra. Baghpat Khap ordered two sisters to be raped and paraded naked after their brother eloped with a girl from an upper caste. Supreme Court had to intervene.
A Khap Panchayat in a village in Haryana ordered five shoe slaps for a man who molested a minor. The victim’s family however refused to go to the police against the diktat.
At the grassroots, villagers still believe in Khaps. In many instances like the one above, people have blatantly denied to take legal action against any of their weird decisions. Until this belief exists, people will blindly follow the Khaps and our courts could do nothing but be a spectator.