With Jat votes at stake, Khaps become an issue in Haryana



Chandigarh: With Jats, accounting for over one-fourth of the electorate in Haryana, political leaders are openly supporting Khaps or caste councils, recently in news for their diktats over same 'gotra' marriages.

Congress MP from Kurukshetra, Navin Jindal not only attended a Khap Mahapanchayat in Kaithal on Sunday, about 120 km from here, but also lauded these panchayats saying they had been rendering yeoman service to the society by resolving people's problems over ages.

His constituency has a strong presence of the Khaps and it was Karoran village in Kaithal district from where Babli (19) and Manoj (23) fell in love and were murdered in cold blood.

Their relationship was not approved as it violated the same 'gotra' norm, under which even married couple is declared as a brother and sister.

"They (Khaps) are constituents of my constituency and I have to listen to them," Jindal has maintained, even though he has made it clear that any action, which violate law, cannot be justified.

While praise for the Khaps by Jindal (40), who is also a leading industrialist and US-educated, may have surprised a few, but 75-year-old former Chief Minister and opposition INLD supremo, Om Prakash Chautala's recent statements that his party will bring a resolution to amend the Hindu Marriage Act, goes on to show that parties in Haryana cannot afford to annoy the Jats.

The present Act does not address the problem of same gotra marriages, a key demand raised by various Khaps.

"We will bring a resolution in the assembly regarding this. If the government brings an amendment bill, my party will support it," Chautala has said.

Another senior Congress leader and six-time MLA from Rewari, Ajay Yadav, too has been supportive of the Khaps, admitting that there is a "scientific reason" why marriages within the same gotras should not take place.

Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, also a Jat, has tried to play down fatwas issued from time to time by the Khaps, maintaining that law will take its own course and nobody will be allowed to take law in his own hands.

However, his close confidant and Rajya Sabha member Shadi Lal Batra has also gone a step ahead, favouring amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act.

Various Khaps including Dharana, Singhwal and Asanda, have in the past been issuing fatwas to couples and their families over same gotra marriages.

Political analysts point out that with Municipal polls and Panchayat elections drawing closer in the state, parties cannot afford to alienate the Jats.

The Jats are believed to have helped in INLD's resurgence in October 2009 elections. The party bounced back into reckoning after being out in the dumps having tasted successive electoral defeats from 2004.

PTI