Why the unsparing khaps still enjoy popular support

Khap Panchayat, Farmers. Haryana,
Khap panchayats are traditional, informal local judicial bodies active in states such as Haryana, northern Rajasthan, the rural belt of Delhi and western Uttar Pradesh | Photo - Kapil Kajal

On April 17, 2018, Ishapur Kheri village in Haryana’s Sonepat district made national headlines after a khap panchayat banned girls from wearing jeans and using mobile phones. Reason: The informal body of village elders believed mobile phones and jeans were the main culprits behind girls eloping with boys.

Referring to an incident wherein three college girls had eloped with boys, one of the supporters of the order contended, “By wearing modern clothes like jeans, they [girls] attract unnecessary attention. And using mobile phones, they get in touch with the boys and make plans to elope.”

This particular order, however, was not issued for the first time. Numerous such incidents have been reported in the last few decades where absurd orders have been passed by various khap panchayats, but they continue to be hailed by most of the villagers, however harsh they sometimes are.

The worst that comes to mind are the horrifying images of murdered couples who married for love outside the community or against its diktats that are mostly anti-women.

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