Tyranny Of Khap Panchayats

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GANAPATHI BHAT, AKOLA

IN a patriarchal society, the elder of the family – generally father or grandfather – wants to be heard and obeyed without resistance. Both sons and daughters are his pride; he has nurtured them all along.  Children should beware: no second thoughts, no arguments,  no falling in love, no love marriages, no relationships, no inter-caste and inter-religion wedlock. If a son or a daughter crosses the line, father fumes. In villages of north India, the notorious khap panchayats decide on the punishment to be meted out to the erring lovebirds; punishment is  ‘death sentence’ if the couple  has committed the ‘cardinal sin’ of eloping for the sake of marital bliss away from the searching look of the elders.  Since the khap panchayat is nothing but an assembly of elders of similar communities and thought processes, they are  hand in glove with one another. They are reluctant to believe children can make their own choice.  So, what do they do? The boy, or the girl, is hounded, chased and killed. The khap panchayats are laws unto themselves; no court  order can deter them.  Telangana has seen five honour killings in the recent past. The latest in Sadasivpet in Sangareddy district has shocked all right-thinking people. The well-to-do family of a girl abducted the boy, who belonged to a poor family,  killed him and threw away the body. As many as 14 people, that included three contract killers, were apprehended. In some cases, courts have handed maximum sentence  related to honour killings. But honour killing has not been added to the Indian Penal Code  as a separate offence. That additional provision would arm more clarity to the police investigation. It would help them to focus on the case without bothering about the clauses. Moreover, the onus has to be on the khap panchayats or families or both to prove their innocence. When contract killers are hired, the panchayat, the family  as well as the killers can be equally  held responsible. Even under the existing laws, a foolproof investigation and better prosecution can help.