Govt sits on report wanting khap curbs

Study conducted a year ago blamed khaps for fuelling honour crimes

Aditi Tandon/TNS New Delhi, May 14

Over a year ago, a government-sponsored study on the prevalence of honour crimes had found such offences to be the most common in areas with khap panchayat dominance. Submitted to the Ministry of Women and Children Development (WCD) for action, nothing came out of the findings which revealed that law enforcers as well as people (both rural and urban) in the affected states agreed that khaps were raising the right issues (81 per cent of the 300 police personnel interviewed and 46 per cent of the 600 residents sampled believed so).

Though the study recommended both legislative (which the Group of Ministers set up for the purpose is already debating) and non-legislative measures to curb honour killings, stressing the urgency of acting against khaps and sensitising policemen and people, no initiative was taken by the government.

After the Supreme Court made scathing observations against khaps perpetrating these crimes, Ravi Kant, founder of Shakti Vahini, which conducted the study, told The Tribune that the least the ministry concerned could have done in a year is to send out advisories to the states to prevent crimes and launch a national awareness campaign on the issue. WCD Ministry officials said they had referred the study to the GoM, which is working on the structure of the anti-honour crime bill expected to be introduced in the Monsoon Session of Parliament.

But Kant asks: “Why wait for the legislation when the government can do so much on the non-legislative side to prevent these crimes. Honour is a social issue, which must be tackled at a psychological level. If 85 per cent policemen agree with khaps on opposing same-gotra marriages, what change can we expect from a law?”

Quite tellingly, the study, concludes that “khaps have a sizeable following; are quasi judicial; are being used as tools to consolidate political power in the affected areas; are even being used as launch pads for aspiring politicians; are dominated by Jats who hold major power and land share in the affected states, primarily Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.” It also finds that while khaps take anti-women stands, they have no women’s representation; also that honour crimes are the most prevalent in areas with khap dominance.

“Since six years, khaps have been providing fuel for honour crimes. The situation has remained normal in districts where khaps are absent. The worst affected are Jhajjar, Jind, Fatehabad and Rohtak in Haryana and Meerut, Baghpat and Muzaffarnagar in UP. Of the 560 victims profiled, 121 were killed – 48 in UP, 41 in Haryana; 17 in Punjab and 15 in Delhi,” states the study, seeking changes in the IPC to define honour crimes; in the Indian Evidence Act to put the onus of proving innocence on the accused and in the Special Marriage Act to make the process of marriage less lengthy.

While the GoM is working on the amendments and will take a view shortly, there is zero progress on the non-legislative side, barring occasional comments from the Supreme Court, which has made known its anguish and angst over honour crimes. But the states are clearly not bothered.

Stinging Study

  • Khaps more about consolidating power than about issues
  • Honour crimes increasingly involving inter-caste and not same-gotra marriages.
  • In Haryana, 81% victims had married out of caste; in Punjab, no case of honour crime involved same gotra wedding
  • Marriage laws too lengthy, make couples vulnerable
  • Law enforcers play negative role; support khaps

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2011/20110515/main7.htm

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