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khap, says: “This law is unfair as it is upsetting the social balance of our society. It is blind to the fact that the girl also gets a share from her husband’s side. It is not fair that she gets two shares”.
What makes matters worse is that often the girl, usually under pressure from her husband, sells the land in her parental village and invests the money elsewhere. The loss of ancestral land equals a loss of pride and is unacceptable in landed communities.
Another popular ploy adopted to prevent girls from staking a claim is to persuade them to sign a lease deed for the property in favour of their brothers. The deed is a registered document that does not attract stamp duty and men generally shower their sisters with lavish gifts after the signing.
Rao Uday Bhan, a senior lawyer in the Jhajjar district courts, says: “Even though the deed is not valid for ancestral land which has to be divided equally between the legal heirs, more than 90 per cent of farmers take this route nowadays”.
He says civil litigation relating to inheritance rights of women has grown a whopping 500 per cent in the past few years. Other lawyers inform that where a woman has staked her claim, the family resists partitioning the land and such disputed lands, particularly in districts in the National Capital Region, attract land sharks. “We have seen that whenever a woman tries to sell her disputed inheritance, she has to settle for much less than the market price.”
It has been eight years since women got complete inheritance rights equal to their brothers and other male family members. But as more of them muster courage and overcome social stigma to claim their share of land and property, voices have begun to rise against the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act itself. Says Mr. Dhankar: “The demand to reverse this amendment has come up time and again in our khap panchayats and we will be taking it up with the government. When our customs do not support such laws, it is better to change the law itself.”
Quite clearly, amending archaic laws is only the first step in empowering women. Changing mindsets is a longer struggle.