Apex court ticks off khap, but who will take them on?

Time for the joke and rage over khap panchayat diktats is over, it’s time to take them on. But do we have the pluck for the long-drawn war against popular belief?

shantanu

Shantanu Datta | January 15, 2013



# "To my understanding, consumption of fast food contributes to such incidents (rape). Chowmein leads to hormonal imbalance, evoking an urge to indulge in such acts," Jitender Chhatar, a resident of Jind's Chhatar village and khap panchayat leader, said in October 2012. (Read here)

# “Boys and girls should be married by the time they turn 16, so that they do not stray... this will decrease the incidents of rape,” khap representative Sube Singh said, again in early October last year. (Read here)

# "We have decided to ban alcohol as it is the main reason behind rapes. We have also banned jeans and T-shirts for girl students as it is not a proper dress,” sarpanch Shamsher Singh of Khedar village panchayat in Hisar said on January 8. (Read here)

These are but just three gems from khap leaders in recent times. They trigger two emotions in most reasonably sensible people: mirth followed by rage, and rage followed by mirth. While millions of words have been written on both accounts, on Monday the supreme court spoke on the legal end of it, observing that khap panchayats’ diktat on dress code for women, and asking them not to carry mobile phones, is unlawful. A bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai said such diktats are against the fundamental right to life and asked khap panchayats to file their replies on the issue, the PTI reports. (Read here)

“It (such diktat) also violates the law. How can someone ask others not to carry mobile?” the bench asked when the centre told the court that such orders are being passed by the khaps against women. We can laugh, seethe, ignore and point holes through the inanity of such khap pronouncements till the cows come home mooing but the point to ponder is where such reactions and responses stand. That khap panchayat diktats do not have any locus standi is to state the obvious, just like statements by some other glorious worthies, including political, social, religious and insignificant leaders in the aftermath of the beastly gangrape and assault on a 23-year-old woman in a bus in south Delhi.

The bigger question is, do the khaps themselves have any locus standi?

And the even bigger one: how on earth can you ignore, close your eyes to pronouncements made by social organisations with obviously such large followings that most political parties shudder to take on directly?

The supreme court has today delivered its verdict on just one issue that reached a logical conclusion. How we ensure such regressive diktats are not issued in future, and how we warrant their targets — primarily women but also people at the bottom of the social or economic ladder — are not victimised, is precisely where the game begins.

For India’s political parties, this is a quandary close to being just as big as external and internal aggression — this is uber-internal, or mental, aggression — and for other social, civil and other organisations it is a problem pretty high on the priority list to brainstorm over. There is little point drilling holes in the inanity of inane comments made by (usually inane) politicians to appease their constituents in the name of women’s safety or law and order per se, and mouthing wrath against them on national television to get our two bits of anger out of the mental constitution.

The problem, now more than ever, is to confront the devil at its doorstep, stop the rot from plaguing the social fabric further, and checking the beast from a monstrous entity where the only option left for reason to stand up to unreason is recoil.

The issue is enormous, and it begs to be dealt with. Now.

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