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Who the Khaps are to allow or disallow inter-caste marriages: Women rights groups
Haryana's biggest Khap panchayat, Satrol Khap in Hisar, which represents communities spread over an area of 250 square kilometres, in a historical U-turn from their earlier stand, gave their green signal to inter-caste marriages, which in past had trigged brutal killings in Haryana and surrounding regions in the name of honor killings. Khap took the landmark decision at a Mahapanchayat convened in Narain town of Hisar district.

In the name of tradition Khaps have always opposed inter-caste marriages, inter-village marriages i.e. with in the radius of 42 villages. Although the Satrol Khap has allowed inter-caste marriages but the ban on same-gotra marriages, marriage with in the same village and neighbouring villages stays. The inter-caste marriages can take place only with parental consent.

The largest number of honor killings have occurred due to inter-caste marriages, followed by the same village (42 village radius) marriages, followed by same-gotra marriages.

This revolutionary decision by one of the various Khap panchayats in Haryana is certainly a positive and a welcome change in their conservative thinking.

Post this u-turn by the Khap panchayat, will the cases of honor killing stop? How far this decision will go regarding its impact on the society has to be watched carefully.

Sudha Sundraraman, national Vice-President of All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) gave no importance to the decision by the Satrol Khap. She questioned the jurisdiction and authorisation of the Khaps.

"Khaps existence is not acceptable. Khap Panchayat is no one to permit inter-caste marriages. It's our constitutional right to tie knot with the person we wish to and enjoy our part of freedom. Khaps have no right to interfere in someone's personal life. It does not matter either khap approve such marriages or not. Society can't work according to them."

Kavita Krishnan, Secretary, All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) while reacting on the decision by the Satrol Khap echoed some similar views as of Sundararaman.

She said, "Khap Panchayat is no one to decided to whom you should get married. Government is the one who can take major steps to redeem the increasing rate of honor killings. Khap's approval or disapproval doesn't matter at all. Khap cannot conquer the life of youth and everybody has right to live. And I think government or opposition party need to take a stand on inter-caste or same-gotra marriages and come up as a great supporter. Honestly speaking, Khap is nothing."

Surinder Singh Jodhka, a Social Science Professor at JNU said that the Khaps are foced to take such decision as the declining sex ratio in the state is making it difficult for the youths to get married while adhering to the Khap laws.

"Haryana is facing 'Scarcity of Women'. Just to fill that voidness in the society, such declaration has been made. Khap doesn't want to loose its significance in the society and trying to be practical by taking such initiative. Honor killings exist because of inter-caste marriages only," said Jodhka.

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Vibhav Kant Upadhyay
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