Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who described himself as an `anarchist` earlier this month, has now sparked a controversy when he said he does not see the need for banning `khap panchayats` because they serve a "cultural purpose”.
Kejriwal, who is a self-proclaimed advocate of progressive social politics, told a news agency in an interview that he would not ban the illegal village courts.
Notably, khap panchayats often support harsh treatment of women and issue misogynistic diktats, including ordering ‘dishonour killings`.
According to Reuters, the 45-year-old`s stand on the unelected all-male bodies contrasts with that of some women`s groups who want them dismantled.
"No, it is not a question of banning these panchayats," Kejriwal told Thomson Reuters Foundation late on Monday. "Khap Panchayats are a group of people who come together. There is no bar on people to assemble in this country ... (But) whenever they take a wrong decision, whenever they take an illegal decision, they ought to be punished."
Khap panchayats` diktats have ranged from banning women from wearing western clothes and using mobile phones to ordering the killing of young couples. Some councils have demanded that the minimum age of marriage be lowered to 16 from 18 for girls and 21 for boys as a way of coping with an increase in the number of rapes.
The councils are coming under growing scrutiny because of their brutal forms of punishment, prompting some women`s rights activists to label them the "Taliban of India”.
Last week, 13 men were arrested after they were alleged to have gang-raped a 20-year-old tribal women on the orders of a village court in West Bengal as punishment for having a relationship with a man from another community.
(With Reuters inputs)