Close on the heels of the much-criticised suggestion by a khap on the legal marriage age of girls, a Jat body of Haryana on Tuesday termed government protection to runaway couples as "wrong and against the culture" and demanded immediate closure of such protection homes. It also suggested that khap panchayats be given the status of lok adalats to curb rapes.
All India Jat Mahasabha leader Om Prakash Mann even described the practice of love-struck youngsters running away from their homes as a "crime". "Earlier, panchayats used to blacken the face of runaway couples and would oust their family from the village," he said. "Now, though they bring disrepute to their family, they are not punished."
The suggestions met with criticism from political parties and women's groups. All India Democratic Women's Association national vice-president Jagmati Sangwan termed protection to such youngsters as their democratic right. "Youngsters have to risk their lives and run away from their homes because of the mindset of such khaps," she said.
"Now, they want to take away the protection government has provided to them. It is unfair. It is regressive behaviour," she said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, too, opposed the suggestion on giving khaps the status of lok adalats. Party state vice-president Jagdish Chopra said the judiciary was in place for that very purpose. "A government has been elected to frame policies. Protection to runaway couples is their constitutional right. Such bodies should not see any bad in it," he added.