Jindal backs caste councils, attends meeting (Lead, Changing dateline)

Monday, May 10, 2010

KAITHAL - Just a day after he extended his support to khap panchayats, or caste councils, Congress MP Naveen Jindal Monday attended a meeting of the council in this Haryana town.

Khap panchayats are demanding an amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act and a complete ban on marriages within the same ‘gotra’ or lineage.

“I am standing besides khap panchayats and I assure them of taking their message and demands to the Congress high command in New Delhi and to Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda,” said Jindal, while addressing the meeting. Kaithal is 120 km from here.

“I and my whole family respect the years old traditions and rituals of khap panchayats. My house is their own home and they can come there any time. I am just like their own child and I can never go against them; rather I always need their blessings.”

After Monday’s meeting, khap panchayat representatives also submitted a memorandum to Jindal, detailing their demands.

Various khap panchayats have launched a widespread campaign seeking an amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act to outlaw marriages within the same gotra.

Verdicts of khap panchayats against people marrying within the same gotra or lineage have led to a spate of “honour killings” in the state. Many couples and their families have also been socially boycotted and forced to leave their homes and lands.

In their meeting at Kurukshetra May 2, the panchayats appealed to all elected representatives of Haryana to support their demand within a month.

A few days ago, the opposition Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) also agreed to support the demand for an amendment as demanded by the councils.

In the wake of forthcoming elections to municipal committees May 20 and subsequent village council polls in Haryana, no political party can afford to annoy the dominant Jat community which forms a huge vote bank in the state.

Earlier in the day, Jindal told CNN-IBN channel: “People have different views. They (khap panchayats) say there should not be marriages in the same gotra. I do feel this had more significance hundreds of years earlier because there were small clans and for medical reasons it was not good to be marrying and reproducing in the same clan.”

The demand of khap panchayats comes after a Haryana court gave capital punishment in March to five people for an “honour killing”.

A Karnal court had sentenced five people to death and one person to life imprisonment for killing a couple who had married despite belonging to the same gotra.

The murdered couple, Manoj, 23, and Babli, 19, had married in 2007 against the wishes of their families.

They were murdered by members of Babli’s family.

Defiant khap leaders are headed for a confrontation with the state government and the Punjab and Haryana High Court wwhich has given rulings over illegal decisions on marriages announced by various panchayats.

Khap leaders have proposed to hold another ‘mahapanchayat’ (grand council) in western Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor district May 14.

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