A mahapanchayat attended by several khaps in Sonepat district on Saturday refuted the idea of a khap leader that the marriageable age of girls should be brought down to 16, saying the suggestion was “individual in nature” and should not be seen as the stand of the body.
The mahapanchayat did not endorse this suggestion to help curb increasing instances of rape in the State.
The function was presided over by Nafe Singh Nain and attended by various khap leaders, including Sube Singh Samain and Santosh Dahiya, president of the mahila (women’s) wing of a khap.
Ms. Dahiya said the mahapanchayat decided to form awareness cells, comprising three to four persons in each group, to launch an awareness campaign in rural areas of the State to educate the people, including young boys and girls, in a bid to help curb incidents of crimes against women.
Mr. Samain, who also attended the meet about 200 km from here, said his comment on reducing the age was his personal opinion.
The mahapanchayat took note of rising incidents of crime against women, including many rape incidents, in Haryana during the past two months and strongly condemned such incidents, Mr. Samain said.
Earlier, Congress president Sonia Gandhi dismissed the khap panchayat leader’s suggestion: “We have a democratic system and an independent judiciary... Law is in the hands of judiciary, nobody else.”
On Ms. Gandhi’s comment, Ms. Dahiya said: “Our existence cannot be ignored. Khaps are part of our social system and have been in existence even before civil law was there.”
Ms. Dahiya said the mahapanchayat also strongly condemned the statement of Haryana Congress leader Dharambir Goyat, who on Thursday claimed that 90 per cent of the rape cases involved “consensual sex.”
“We have demanded that Mr. Goyat should apologise to women for his shameful comment,” Ms. Dahiya said.
“Boys and girls should be given equal rights and girls should also be made strong — both physically and mentally,” she said.
On the issue of reservation for the Jat community in government jobs, the mahapanchayat resolved to expand the scope of the existing 24-member committee, which is spearheading the demand by including more members. A decision to this effect will be taken when the mahapanchayat holds another meeting in Jind district on October 21, Mr. Samain said.