Gurugram: Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has scotched the possibility of his government taking any initiative to ban intra-gotra and intra-village marriages, saying that it’s for the Centre to amend the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
The statement came in the backdrop of claims by Haryana’s Dalal khap that the state government has initiated a move in this regard, since marriage is a concurrent subject.
Asked if there is a proposal to ban marriages within the same gotras and villages, as demanded by khap panchayats, Khattar said at a press conference in Chandigarh Thursday that the law in question is a central Act and any answer on the matter can be given by the Centre alone.
Speaking to ThePrint, a senior government official reiterated that no such proposal is on the horizon. “Even otherwise, when the central government is talking about bringing a Uniform Civil Code (UCC), how can one think of bringing any such amendment at this stage?” he said.
Khap panchayats — councils representing a group of villages — have long been demanding a ban on intra-gotra and intra-village marriages as they consider these relationships equivalent to incest.
The demand gained currency in the wake of a series of meetings held by Bharat Bhoomi Bachao Sangharsh Samiti president Ramesh Dalal, also head of Dalal khap, with government officials.
He met senior civil servant Rajesh Khullar in June this year, and Khattar’s principal secretary V. Umashankar last Friday.
Dalal Thursday claimed that Haryana had agreed to bring in the necessary amendment to outlaw marriage within the same gotras and villages, and it would be introduced in the upcoming assembly session starting 25 August.
“Our organisation Bharat Bhoomi Bachao Sangharsh Samiti has been holding a dharna at the KMP Mandothi toll plaza for more than seven months on several demands, including an amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, to ban marriages within the same village and same gotra, hiked price for land acquired at Jhajjar and Sonipat for government projects, and Bharat Ratna for Jat leaders Chhotu Ram, Chaudhary Charan Singh, Chaudhary Devi Lal, and poet Mehar Singh,” he told ThePrint Thursday.
“During my meeting Friday with the authorities, I was informed that the Haryana government has decided to amend the marriage law to fulfil our demands,” he said.
Contacted by The Print, Umashankar confirmed the meeting, but said it was in connection with some other issue.
Hindu Marriage Act of 1955
Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, lays down the conditions for a Hindu marriage.
Section 5(iv) and 5(v) declare that marriage within a ‘degree of prohibited relationship’, and with one’s ‘sapindas’, is prohibited. Section 11 declares such marriages to be void.
‘Prohibited relationships’ include those where one is a lineal ascendant of the other. For example, one cannot marry their parents, grandparents or children.
A ‘sapinda’ is someone who has a common ancestor within three generations above you on your mother’s side of the family, and within five generations above you on your father’s side.
“Considering the definitions of ‘degree of prohibited relationship’ and ‘sapindas’, it may be concluded that ‘intra-gotra marriages’ are not covered in either of them. Thus, ‘the intra-gotra marriages’ are not prohibited under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955,” said Dalal.
Balwant Singh Phogat, president of Phogat khap, said intra-gotra and intra-village marriages are already taboo in Haryanvi society, adding that Jat families don’t go for a marital relationship even in neighbouring villages or other gotras found in their village.
“When a young boy and a girl from our community solemnise marriage on their own within their gotra or village in violation of societal norms, the courts grant them protection because their act is not considered contrary to the law,” he said. “This leaves our hands tied. Similarly, live-in relationships are another bane the khaps have been fighting against. We want the state government to ban these relationships too,” he added.
Dalal, however, said the government had clarified to him that it couldn’t do anything in the case of live-in relationships because the issue of Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the Constitution is involved.
Referring to speculation about a law to ban intra-gotra and intra-village marriages, Mahabir Jaglan, a retired professor of geography, said it was a ploy of the BJP government to keep khaps involved with the party.
“Khap panchayats, which largely comprise Jats, have distanced themselves completely from the BJP from the time of the farmers’ agitation in Delhi,” he added.
“The BJP tried hard to sell one or the other issue to them, but it has failed miserably. The ruling party hoped that Jats will side with it in the aftermath of Nuh violence, but it didn’t happen and they rather distanced further,” he said. “Jats have been demanding cow vigilante Monu Manesar’s arrest and condemning bulldozer justice at Nuh by the state government. The talk of amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, seems to be another way to bring Jats to the party’s fold.”
The demand of khaps, he added, is impractical and unrealistic because it is not possible to universalise “local social and traditional customs” for a vast country like India.
“Even in Haryana itself, there are areas like those lying north of Kurukshetra, northwest of Hisar, also called the Bagri belt of Jats, south of Jhajjar, known as Ahirwal region, that do not share culture and traditions with regard to nuptial ties in the clan territories with the Jats of eastern Haryana or the Deswali belt,” said Jaglan.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)