Poll results to clear the air on khaps' influence in Haryana | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Poll results to clear the air on khaps' influence in Haryana

chandigarh Updated: Oct 19, 2014 11:41 IST
Vishal Joshi

Outcome of the state assembly polls on Sunday would clear the air on the political influence that controversial khap panchayats or caste councils of Haryana wield on society.

For the first time, four self-styled khap leaders with sound financial background are contesting the assembly elections.

Several khap leaders are notorious for their alleged role in honour killings, issuing diktats on same-gotra (sub-caste) marriages, gender and other women-related issues and have invited wrath of all sections of society.

Political significance of these councils was highlighted when Prime Minister Narendra Modi "bowed" to khaps at an election rally at Pandu Pindara in rural heartland of Jats of Jind.

However, political observers and activists have cast doubts on the electoral influence of khaps and blame media for projecting these "undemocratic" councils as bodies that hold key to political success in Haryana.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded two leaders namely Baljit Singh Malik, head of the Gathwala khap, from Baroda assembly segment in Sonepat district, whereas Shamsher Singh Kharkhara is the party's nominee from Meham in Rohtak.

Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Malik had joined the saffron party at a political function held in Karnal on April 4.

Kharkhara is head of Aathgama, a cluster of eight villages of Jat-dominated Meham. Kharkara had unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Rohtak seat on Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) ticket and soon joined the BJP.

Santosh Dahiya is the INLD candidate from Beri in Jhajjar district. Head of woman wing of Sarv Khap Sarv Mahapanchayat, Dahiya is an assistant professor at University College, a college on the Kurukshetra University campus, and an INLD activist for the last several years.

Tek Ram, head of Kandela khap, is contesting an Independent candidate from Jind.

Another affluent Jat leader, Jasbir Deswal is contesting as an Independent from Safidon segment and claiming to have the support of Deswal khap.

According to Reicha Tanwar, director, Women's Studies Research Centre, Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra, studies did not indicate that khap panchayats had any major political influence in the state.

She said field inputs did not indicate that people approach khap leaders for their community or political issues but small groups with political inclinations and patriarchal mindsets try to influence poor families to maintain their upmanship.

Tanwar said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's soft stance towards khaps was nothing but an attempt to consolidate every single vote.
A retired Delhi University professor and social activist Daulat Ram Chaudhry, who has written several books on khap panchayats, also dismissed the popular perception that these panchayats maintain political influence in society.

He said there was no history where khap panchayats or leaders could influence election results but the real picture would emerge on Sunday after the counting of votes.

"Media has wrongly given khaps a larger than life image whose writ runs in Haryana, particularly in villages. I have observed that people hardly give any attention to these leaders who issue statements on women and gender issues just to gain media attention," he said.