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Influential khap panchayat leader Naresh Tikait has said the Supreme Court should not interfere with khap customs governing marriages.
“I do not challenge the Supreme Court, but ask them not entangle itself in it, as it our personal matter,” Tikait, head of the Balyan khap and president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, said on Thursday.
Khaps, all-male local bodies or councils representing clans, communities and castes, follow their own set of ancient systems and oppose marriages in the same gotra and clan.
These councils, which abound in north Indian states, have earned notoriety for their diktats and are often blamed for honour killings.
This has put khaps at odds with the Supreme Court, which has directed the Centre and state governments to protect couples facing threats from their extra-judicial orders.
Read: Stamp out honour killings: SC
“The marriage of our children is our sole business. We invest more than Rs 30-40 lakh on their education, upbringing, but when it comes to marriage, they run away and live with girls of same gotra under police protection," Tikait, who hails from Sisauli village in western Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district, told HT over phone.
He said orders that encourage youngsters to marry within clan promote crimes such as honour killings. “After children take such steps, parents are forced to take extreme steps to save their face in society.”
Tikait said thousands of years of tradition governed the institution of marriage and the court need not to interfere.
Khap panchayats across Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi have been raising the demand of amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act to prohibit marriages within the same clan.
Political parties continue to keep khap vote bank in good humour
The khaps enjoy immense political patronage and local leaders are never known to speak against them even if their parties have a different view nationally.
On February 7, Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had equated the role of khaps with that of NGOs and resident welfare associations.
The Congress leader was responding to a question on the view of Union finance minister P Chidambaram, who had described khap panchayats as retrograde organisations.
Hooda had steered clear of commenting on Chidambaram’s view.
Hooda terms khaps' role as that of NGOs
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) too is not against the existence of khap panchayats.
On February 1, AAP leader Yogendra Yadav, who hails from Haryana, had said, “All castes tend to have their social organisations, which do internal dispute resolution. We certainly acknowledge the right of all such organisations to exist. They have a right to exist and perform a legitimate role because we do not want every social dispute to go to the court of law.”
Yadav had said the problem arose when khap panchayats violated the law with their decisions.
"The problem arises when the dispute resolution is done through coercion... when the law of land is broken or when killings and murders are defended in the name of some adjectives like honour killing, etc.
“We are absolutely unopposed to compromising any cohesion, violation of law or any killing."