Khap Panchayat: Popular Culture Or Parallel Judiciary
Written By: Meghna Prusty
A Khap is a communal organization that represents a Jat clan or a collection of Jat clans that are related. They are primarily found in northern India, particularly among the Jat people of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, however, the word has previously been applied to other groups. A Khap Panchayat is a group of Khap elders, while a Sarv Khap is a collection of Khap Panchayats. Khaps are unaffiliated with publicly elected government bodies and are instead focused on the business of the Khap they represent. It is not associated with the Panchayats, which are democratically elected local assemblies. A Khap Panchayat has no official government recognition or authority, but it can have a lot of social power in the community it represents. The Baliyan Khap, which was commanded by Mahendra Singh Tikait until 2011, has gotten a lot of press. Another important Khap is Dahiya Khap.
The Khap was a collection of 84 settlements. Individual villages were controlled by a Panchayat, which was an elected council. A Thamba was a unit of seven villages, and 12 Thambas made up the Khap unit of 84 villages, however, there were also Khaps of 12 and 24 villages. Which units would be represented at the Khap level would be decided by their chosen leaders? [requires citation] All of the Khaps were represented by the Sarv Khap (or All Khap) Panchayat (Council). Individual Khaps would elect leaders who would then send delegates to the Sarv Khap to represent their Khaps. It was a political organization made up of all of the region’s clans, communities, and castes. Khap panchayat members are all men, however, they often make decisions that impact women. In Haryana, women are not permitted to attend panchayat meetings and must be represented by male relatives. Instead, members of Sarva Jaateeya Venain Khap, one of Haryana’s largest Khap panchayats, claim that no female Khap members attend because they are uncomfortable, not because they are not allowed.
Popular Culture or Judiciary
The Panchayati Raj System was established in India with the goal of democratization and decentralization. As ‘custodians of honor,’ Khap Panchayats, on the other hand, have full legitimacy and authority. Most regressive viewpoints are sought to be implemented through them. In the natural world, Khap adjudications are essentially feudal and patriarchal. Honor killings, or savage murders perpetrated in the name of maintaining a family’s, clan’s, or village’s honor, are archaic remains of regressive tribal civilizations that have endured far too long into the modern liberal period. In the name of perpetuating a criminal culture for future generations. These activities, which the international community views as primarily confined to Arabs and geared to defend against invaders, were and continue to be largely caste Panchayats made up of upper and middle castes who have consolidated their authority by subordinating the weaker caste systems. Khap Panchayats/Caste Panchayats, which were formerly trusted bodies with a social perspective, has become extremely politicized. They are active in several states of the country at a time when the country’s prestige is being ruined by the self-proclaimed courts of caste lords. The Indian judiciary has gone a long way, but there is still more to be done to free society from the grips of unconstitutional and unlawful dispensers.
For a long time, the Khap panchayat has been taking over the role of the judiciary. It is done because they believe that families and people are exploited in court and police investigations. They claim that because everyone knows everyone and is aware of the circumstances in a khap panchayat, they may make informed decisions. They will be able to avoid abusing the legal system in this way. Furthermore, the evidence validity is easy to verify because it can be cross-checked by neighbors. Khap panchayats in Haryana and other nearby regions have consistently targeted women, and have intimidated, abused, and killed girls through rulings on multiple occasions. In these circumstances, the victims’ families usually have no qualms about providing pesticide pills to their children and then disposing of their bodies by burning them. This is done because girls bear the whole duty of safeguarding the khap’s or village’s honor. Boys’ rules appear to be more flexible, and they are frequently spared from severe punishments, whereas girls’ rules are rarely relaxed. If a couple elopes, the family is often subjected to abuse and fines in the millions of dollars.
In the past, Khap panchayats played an important role in village administration and unification. Their value was also recognized by Mughal emperors and the British authorities. The popularity of the Khap panchayat stemmed from their ill-repute for fair working; so much time could be saved in panchayat hearings that would otherwise be wasted in legal judicial hearings due to procedural technicalities, and the Khap panchayat could easily reach a resolution of dispute even among larger groups while also maintaining the values of brotherhood among community members. After the state establishes a legal framework for dispute resolution and a justice-providing institution, anyone can seek justice without regard to their gotra or caste, and without being discriminated against. The Pradhan and members of the panchayat are expected to follow the community’s traditional conventions and practises, and because the majority constitutes the panchs (members of the panchayat), the majority’s customs are imposed on the minority. Furthermore, Khap panchayats are held accountable because the hearing procedure is held in the open, allowing anybody to attend, making the process more transparent. Because the principles on which a Khap panchayat operates are those of ‘bhaichara,’ arbitration and resolution are generally accepted without much wrangling, and peace is maintained.
Those who support the khap’s continuation and operation believe that in the past, Khap panchayats have performed an important role. And, if these Khap panchayats were so revered in the past, why are they making such heinous decisions now? The most serious problem is that, despite the existence of a functioning and well-established legal system in the country, they continue to violate state law and order. Again, because Khap panchayats are reliant on community votes, local governments and other governments seldom interfere with their operations. Because of the government’s ignorance, Khap panchayats are not afraid of the police or the law. While it is necessary to remember the past while developing policy for the future, we must also put an end to past wrongdoings. Their actions as a quasi-judicial body diminish the judiciary’s ability to use its jurisdiction in a lawful and constitutional manner.
The Khap panchayat is an institution that has played a significant role in maintaining social harmony and order throughout history. Khap panchayat arose as a social entity in charge of the administration and security of all the villages within its jurisdiction. There were certain standards and rules that became legislation as an administrative entity. Because not all regulations can be made into legislation in the modern period, Khap panchayats continue to rule based on standards that may or may not be legally enforceable. The most popular belief in a Khap is that all people of a village or gotra share the same lineage, making them all siblings who are not permitted to form a marriage relationship.
Many times, in the past, Khap panchayats have punished similar marital occurrences with death penalties, and such actions have been referred to as ‘honor killings.’ The Indian judiciary has demonstrated its judicial activism on numerous occasions by criticizing these practices and providing directions to the competent government to investigate them. It is stated that in order to address the existence and barbarous acts of these panchayats, current laws must be amended, as well as new laws enacted if necessary. The brutal nature of this institution is attempted to be demonstrated through a number of case studies. Finally, the issue of social intervention is discussed. Despite the existence of a State administrative apparatus and a judiciary, the Khap panchayat continues to have public support. Because Khap panchayats are non-political groups that rely on votes and support from other political parties, they are rarely challenged. So, if the public’s support for the Khap panchayat is turned against them, we may be able to find a long-term solution to this problem.
Student at The Law College, Utkal University