The article by Jagmati Sangwan (May 8) provided a vivid analysis of the social diversities of Haryana in relation to marriage traditions. The khaps are bent on forcing people to accept their authority. These panchayats had no role, either historically or socially, in the formulation of rules of marriage. As the author has pointed out, these are nothing but desperate efforts by vested interests to have their way.
Unfortunately, it has become fashionable to criticise khap panchayats. India is known for its democratic traditions. Gram sabhas are known to have taken decisions concerning villages since ancient times. In western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, this has extended to a different level, where representatives of groups of villages — known as khaps — do this exercise. Raja Harshvardhan started this tradition, possibly under the influence of Buddhism, which considers collective decision (Sangha) akin to divine decision, to bring maximum justice and prosperity. No sati or bonded labour was prevalent under these panchayats. Widow re-marriage, vegetarianism, low crime rate, encouragement for sports, etc., were some of the positive influences of such panchayats. For something the khap panchayats do not do, they are being maligned: they never order killing. There may have been a few instances of killings but does anyone know that no khap has any army or police at its disposal to enforce its writ?
There is an innocuous tradition of marrying outside one's gotra. Why is the government insistent on disrespecting it? Even the British recognised the custom. They did not need to practise vote bank politics, after all. Today's dispensation seems more imperialistic than the imperialists themselves.
The unbending attitude of the chieftains of the khap panchayats about marriages within the same gotra displays an utter lack of knowledge about the ancient scriptures. The concept of gotra has totally lost its significance in modern times. These are the names of the Rishis from whom we claim to derive our ancestry. These sages existed thousands of years ago, and over the passage of time, due to inter-mingling, the characteristics inherited from the original bloodline have undergone a sea change. Sticking to these out-dated concepts does not serve any purpose; apart from leading to avoidable disturbances in social life.