In matrilineal Meghalaya, fathers are second-class citizens. This is what a few candidates, who had their political baptism in the name of their fathers, are finding out.
Take the case of Waibha Khyriem Kyndiah, son of Union Tribal Affairs Minister Paty Ripple Kyndiah and Congress candidate for the prestigious Nongkrem seat, one of the 55 reserved Assembly constituencies in Meghalaya. Waibha awaits a verdict on a case challenging his tribal status.
Trouble for Kyndiah junior began after a local NGO named Ka Seng Tip Kur Tip Kha U Khasi questioned his right to contest a seat reserved for tribal people. According to the organisation, he ceased to be a tribal after assuming his father’s surname and not his mother’s, in violation of the Khasi Social Custom of Lineage Act of 1997.
Kyndiah belongs to the Jaintia tribe, which — like the Khasis and Garos — follow the matriarchal tradition. The women of the three tribes inherit family property, with the largest share going to the youngest daughter. Children also take the name of the mother, like Kyndiah senior did from his mother Sandrina Kyndiah.
Waibha, though, is unperturbed. “I never dropped my mother’s surname from my name. The nomination papers carry my name as Waibha Khyriem Kyndiah, Khyriem being my mother’s surname.”
In Garo Hills, Congress heavyweight Mukul Sangma faces a more serious charge — of assuming a surname that belongs neither to his father nor his mother. Sangma’s father’s name is Binod M. Marak and his mother’s Roshanara Begum, who hails from a patrilineal community in Assam.