April 4, 2011 4 Comments
All these months we have been hearing about the Khap Panchayats issuing the orders and authorising killings against couples indulging in marriages in same Gotra. This has lead to several honour killings all around and in the National capital territory. They have mixed up science and their prejudices and so continue to stay in the hangover.
What are khap panchayats?
These are community groups — usually comprising elderly men from the Jat community — that set the rules in an area comprising one or more villages. Transgressors’ penalty can be serious.
What do they want?
An amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, to ban marriages within the same gotra (sub-caste) including mother’s gotra and within the same village. Local customs dictate that a boy and a girl belonging to the same gotra are brother and sister.
How old is this institution?
The exact origins of khap panchayats are lost in the mists of time but popular belief dates this social structure back to 600 AD.
Scientific explanation to why marriage in same gotra can be dangerous
The root of this lies in the origin of caste system in India. Earlier people of same caste , lets say potters would be living together and specializing in their trade. As the system continues to gain root it became more hereditary. In the earlier times whole villages used to very closely linked in term of their genetic origin. So as illustrated in the reference Hemophilia in the Royal Family , if the family has some genes related to specific diseases then their is a higher probability of the offspring getting the same disease. The basic logic to prohibit marriage in the same sub caste was correct. In the current times this logic can not be applied blindly since the social organization and medical science have undergone sea change.
Now the villages and sub-castes are too scattered and the logic of passing on of the disease is not as applicable. The elders of Hindu communities like Jats are not ready to understand the realities of current times and still obsessed with the past. The politicians as always are more than happy fanning the FIRE for their petty vote bank politics.
What can be done to address the real issues and prevent the jungle-raj of Khap Panchayat ?
In the event of a couple insisting on marrying someone from theri own sub caste, they be explained the risks involved as per the medical science findings. If there are some tests which can be conducted to prove or rule out the risk to offspring , they be conducted and the result be known to both girl and guy. Anyone enforcing their wills on the prospective guy and groom must be punished in the most severe possible ways. What we need is upholding of rights of people and warning them of any dangers they can cause to their children in future by their actions. Also the insurance companies may chose to raise the premium for those people. But killing them is not at all a solution and must be stopped at all costs.
“It takes two people with the same recessive gene problem to have a child with that disease, marrying within your own family increases the odds of that happening. Though there are greater risks when you marry a close relative, it’s certainly no guarantee that children will be born with any birth defects or disease. The risks increase as this happens more and more each generation, though.”