What are khap panchayats?
These are community groups — usually comprising elderly men from the Jat community — that set the rules in an area comprising one or more villages. Transgressors’ penalty can be serious.
What do they want?
An amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, to ban marriages within the same gotra (sub-caste) including mother’s gotra and within the same village. Local customs dictate that a boy and a girl belonging to the same gotra are brother and sister.
How old is this institution?
The exact origins of khap panchayats are lost in the mists of time but popular belief dates this social structure back to 600 AD.
What purpose does it serve?
Says Khazan Singh, Dean of Social Sciences at Maharishi Dayanand University, Rohtak: “Khaps were socially relevant and renowned for amicable resolution of disputes only till the judicial system was established. Over time they lost their clout. But in the last decade, they have regained some sort of legitimacy through issues such as a ban on same-gotra marriages. They have become less transparent in functioning, oppressive and in conflict with the law of the land.”
In which states do they exist?
They exist in western UP, eastern Rajasthan but are most powerful in the Rohtak, Jhajjar, Bhiwani, Sonepat, Jind, Kaithal, Karnal, and Hisar districts of Haryana.
Do they have any legal status?
No. Khap panchayats are social institutions that have no sanction under the law.
Why are politicians supporting them?
Because Jats, who make up 25 per cent of Haryana’s population, are the state's largest caste group.