In a move to win over the Jat community, Congress MP from Kurukshetra Naveen Jindal on Monday supported the Khap panchayats’ demand to amend the Hindu Marriage Act to ban unions within a gotra (sub-caste).
Jats comprise 17 per cent of Kurukshetra’s population.
Jindal received support from INLD chief OP Chautala who met Home Minister P. Chidambaram to urge him to amend the act. “We are opposed to inter-caste marriages, which are not right scientifically and medically,” Chautala later said.
But the Congress distanced itself from Jindal’s statement, saying in a democracy individuals are entitled to different opinions.
“The Congress stand is crystal clear. No customary law or practice can possibly be excused or condoned in any manner if it involves killing of any kind in the name of honour, tradition or heritage,” he said.
Jindal, however, did receive some support from within. Congress MP Shadi Lal Batra said he would demand an amendment to the act in Parliament.
Khaps in Haryana have not only been demanding a ban on same-gotra marriages but also on alliances within a village to “protect the social fabric”.
Jindal was forced to cancel his foreign tour and attend a Khap mahapanchayat at Kaithal in Haryana after the Sarv Jaat Sarv Khap Mahapanchayat threatened to lay siege to his residence there.
Khap leaders — who have asked Haryana MPs to clarify their stand by May 25 — presented him with their demands. Jindal assured them he would apprise the party leadership and Centre about their issues.
Though Jindal condemned Khaps for supporting honour killings, he said the issues raised by them are complex and demand a larger debate. “Being a public representative, I am duty bound to listen to their issues and try to address them.”