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Khap panchayat leader and others convicted of heinous murder, no major impact on policemen who did not do their duties




Khap panchayats are a curse on many areas of North India. In rural areas, these caste ‘panchayats’ would comprise of the caste elders, while they were not constituted under any law or any legal structure. Under some arcane beliefs, these would meet and then bring the alleged offenders in front of them. And what was the offence ? You have 2 youngsters of the village meeting and deciding that they love each other, and wanting to marry each other. The laws of the country allow this, in fact, as per the constitution, all these freedoms are part of the ‘Right to Life’. These are the freedoms that the people of the country expect, and instead, this fundamental right is trampled upon and, in many cases, the young couple has been killed (brutally in many cases). And what was their crime ? Since they were in the same village or belonged to the same ‘gotra’, it was believed that they are almost like brothers and sisters, and hence are committing incest. So what happens ? The ‘khap’ panchayat meets, decides that these people have committed a crime, and sentences them. And this is not the first time it has happened, it will probably happen many times again.
What role does the police and the administration have to play in all this ? Unfortunately, their role is not positive. In many of these cases, the Indian judiciary has stepped in and asked the police to provide protection to these couples; but this protection has not come to much. In several such cases, the couple have been tracked down and then killed. Even politicians, sensitive to caste matters and popular support and wary of going against society groups, have not been interested in stepping into such matters. So you will find politicians of all parties refusing to make any comments on such matters, or playing down such matters as family disputes. It was only recently that the Home Minister (Chidambaram) finally took a stand and criticized these kangaroo courts.


One reason why these caste panchayats have run amok has been that they have not seen any adverse outcome of their actions, but this might change. For probably the first time, a court in Harayana has convicted and sentenced members of the caste panchayat for their brutal killing of a lawfully married couple (link to article):

In a blow to the Taliban-style caste panchayats of Haryana, a sessions court in Karnal on Tuesday sentenced five people to hang until death for killing a couple from the same village and gotra. It is the first time that a Haryana court has sentenced killers who acted on the provocation of a khap panchayat, the likes of which have of late taken upon themselves to maintain caste contours and act as social guardians and kangaroo caste courts.
The landmark verdict by additional district and sessions judge Vani Gopal Sharma came in the murder case of Manoj and Babli. Five of Babli’s family members — her brother Suresh, uncles Rajender and Baru Ram and cousins Satish and Gurdev — were ordered to hang until death for killing the couple on June 15, 2007. The judge sentenced the seventh accused, Mandeep Singh, driver of the Scorpio used in the crime, to seven years’ jail for kidnapping and conspiracy.

However, such actions, even though they have somewhat of an effect, cannot be really stopped until the police and local administration take the required steps to caution and prevent such kangaroo courts from functioning.




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