In Haryana's hinterland, not just lawmakers and law-enforcing
agencies deal with law. Diktats, many of them strange ones, keep
coming from all quarters. The recent ones have been about stopping
girls from wearing skirts to schools and prohibiting them from
dancing and even banning chowmein.
The diktats come from extra-constitutional bodies like khap
panchayats (community courts), village councils and even
institution managements, which have no legal sanctity under law.
In Rohtak, the hometown of Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, a
rightwing educational institution management prohibited girls from
wearing skirts. Girls from Classes 8 to 12 in CBSE-affiliated
Siksha Bharti Senior Secondary School were asked to wear
"We took the decision in consultation with parents who endorsed
the same. We were receiving complaints about some girls wearing
short skirts," the school's principal Nirmal Popli said.
In Jind district, dancing by girls at social functions was banned
by a panchayat saying that it was a "crime against women". The
Kinana village council also directed schools in the area not to
involve girls in cultural events that promote dancing.
Village headman Raja Ram said the decision was taken after some
men, who were drunk, were found watching a dance performance by
girls and passing lewd remarks.
In October last year, a khap leader charted his own course when he
said the growing number of rape cases were the result of youth
eating fast food like chowmein, burgers and pizzas. He sought a
complete ban on these foods, saying that this would save girls
from crimes like rapes.
Haryana had 733 rape cases in 2011 and 686 in 2012.
Last year, several khaps had demanded that the marriage age for
girls be lowered from 18 to 16 years to prevent cases of rape.
Other khap and village councils have sought bans on mobile phones,
cricket and loud music by DJs.
Following India's dismal performance in the 2007 Cricket World
Cup, khaps of some villages in Jind districts even banned the game
in 28 villages.
Many other khaps have been notorious for announcing annulment of
marriages saying that couples within the same community or village
could not marry as they are regarded as siblings.
After the khaps started taking the law into their hands in recent
years, the Punjab and Haryana High Court intervened and asked the
Haryana government to rein in the khaps as they could not dictate
laws to society.
For Haryana's politicians, dealing with the khaps, who have
considerable clout in their respective communities and villages,
is a sensitive matter. Most politicians shy away from taking any
stand on the diktats of khaps, let alone taking a tough stand
"The khaps cannot have a free run. In some cases, the khaps do
good work, but they should not be allowed to take decisions that
violate the rights of individuals or society," a retired senior
police officer said.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at email@example.com)