Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 34 March 2014

The Ascendancy of the Khap Panchayats in Contemporary India:
Gender, Caste, Globalisation and Violence

Suruchi Thapar-Björkert and Gurchathen Sanghera

      June 2007: Manoj and Babli, newlyweds, from Karora village in Kaithal district, Haryana, were brutally murdered by Babli’s relatives, on the diktats of the Banawala khap panchayat for marrying in the same Jat gotra. Babli was forced to consume pesticide by her brother, while Manoj was strangled with a cord in front of Babli. Their bodies were wrapped in gunny sacks and dumped in Barwala Link Canal in Hisar district.[1]

      May 2008: In Balla village in Karnal district Haryana, Om Prakash along with others allegedly tied the hands and legs of their 23-year-old pregnant daughter Sunita and her husband Jasbir to a tree and ran them over with a tractor. Their bodies were hung outside Sunita’s house to warn youngsters who might be considering something similar. Both were from the same gotra. Jagat Singh, a member of the Kaliraman khap, which ordered the killing, stated ‘we believe that all those who marry within the gotra are bastards. To save the biradari [extended family networks], one has to kill the dissenters.’[2]

  1. These two excerpts demonstrate local 'democracy' at work in contemporary India. They conjure up images that sit uncomfortably with a country that embarked on its tryst with globalisation and liberalisation through the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1991. For many Indians this tryst heralded a new era for Indian democracy where traditional sources of power and privilege, such as caste, class, gender, would become democratised and, eventually, melt away. This optimism was perhaps over simplistic, if not rather premature. Initial ambitions of negotiating local-global interests have been far from straightforward and fraught with (actual and perceived) insecurities and unexpected outcomes, as relations and structures embedded within the very processes of globalisation have had profound implications for local relations and structures of power.[3] Globalisation embodies dialectical processes of homogenisation and differentiation, integration and fragmentation, universalisation and particularisation.[4] Anthony Giddens understands such processes as 'uneven development that fragments as it coordinates.'[5] For some, such processes provide opportunities and new ways of living, whilst for others they are a source of insecurity and threat. Traditional certainties have been replaced by new anxieties and concerns. Terry Eagleton argues that globalisation 'breeds isolation and anxiety, uprooting men and women from their traditional attachments and pitching their identity into chronic crisis, it fosters, by way of reaction, cultures of defensive solidarity…the more avant-garde the world waxes, the more archaic it grows.'[6] Similarly, Mary Kaldor suggests that 'globalisation is linked with a growing cultural dissonance between those who participate in transnational networks…and those who are excluded from global processes and are tied to localities even though their lives may be profoundly shaped by those same processes.'[7] Furthermore, she emphasises how struggles over scarce resources may in part be precipitated by neoliberal restructuring of economies, where 'new forms of power struggle may take the guise of traditional nationalism, tribalism or communalism.'[8] While the globalisation 'success' stories of India's megacities of Mumbai and Calcutta (Kolkata), the silicon valley of Bangalore, and the traditional seat of political power, Delhi, have been transformed, other parts of India have fared less well. Non-metropolitan places in India have an urge to hold onto everyday markers, rituals, practices, values, beliefs and to revive what are seen as 'local,' 'authentic,' 'pure' and to 'recover lost local traditions' that provide continuity in uncertain times.[9]
  2. For our paper, we understand the dialectical nature of globalisation in terms of how certain relations and structures of power and privilege have been challenged or transformed, others have been sustained, if not become further entrenched. Globalisation and liberalisation may have sharpened the contradiction between evolving socio-cultural patterns and well-entrenched feudal-patriarchal codes, and opened the way for various 'social fundamentalisms' to appear that sustain local hegemony. Local hegemony entails 'a fine balance'[10] between unscripted coercion and consent in people's everyday lives.[11] As Christine Chin and James Mittelman remind us hegemony 'encompasses whole ways of life: it is a dynamic lived process in which social identities, relations, organisations, and structures based on asymmetrical distributions of power and influence are constituted by the dominant classes.'[12] The ascendancy of the khap (caste) panchayat (assemblies) system in local and national politics in a globalised India is illustrative of this point. Khap panchayats provide an alternative system of unelected governance, implement patriarchal codes and legitimise the use of particular forms of gendered violence (or gendered 'honour' killings). They indeed subvert democratic institutions and processes of governance in India. Yet, importantly, it is also because of globalisation that khap panchayats have come under greater media scrutiny.
  3. Our paper will explore> the rationale behind khap panchayat sanctioned killings.[13] Within the context of globalisation, we will shed light on the interactions between gender, caste, violence and local governance, and the work and implications of such local institutions. The focus will be on interrelated transformations (land, unemployment among young men, and the unholy alliance between local politics and functionaries of the state) that disrupt the local hegemony of khap panchayats, and how these institutions have responded, often violently, to reassert their power. First, we will provide a background to decentralised governance. This will include a brief discussion of the paradoxes of democratically elected Panchayati Raj institutions and the khap panchayats as self-proclaimed arbiters of local justice. Second, we will discuss some of the dominant media explanations that have been provided for khap panchayat sanctioned honour killings. Third, we will provide an analysis that explores the challenges associated with the dialectics of globalisation and the implications that these have for ordinary people's everyday lives. This paper draws on a short qualitative study carried out in Delhi in 2011 by the first author that was funded by Borbos Hansson (Uppsala University). Along with examining media reports and scholarly contributions, the study also entailed informal conversations with key stakeholders in the judiciary, the police and women's organisations, such as the All India Women's Conference (AIWC) and All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA). Due to the highly sensitive nature of the topic, conversations were not recorded.

    Democratising local institutions
  4. Since the 1990s, India has experienced significant economic growth in line with a capitalist market economy and along with a model of 'good governance' that provides its citizens an enabling environment to actualise their rights. A particular form of decentralised and democratised governance, which was expected to facilitate greater political participation for all citizens, was institutionalised at the local level through the Panchayati Raj on the recommendations of the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee (1957). Three tiers of governance were suggested—Gram Panchayat at the village level, Panchayat Samiti at the block level, and Zila Parishad at the district level. Democratic decentralisation was expected to 'play a vital role in the process of political legitimation'[14] and offer an avenue of 'public participation in community work…[and] through statutory representative bodies.'[15]
  5. In 1992, the 73rd and 74th Amendment Bills (1992) to the Constitution of India paved the way for the establishment of elected institutions of local governance. The Act stipulated that panchayat elections should be held every five years with a 33 per cent reservation of panchayat seats for women, Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. Furthermore, there was to be one-third women's representation of Chairpersons in village and block Panchayat. Thus, while facilitating political processes of governance at the local level, Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) were expected to facilitate the empowerment of women, which involved the participation of women as voters, women as members of political parties, and women as elected members.[16] In 2009, a 50 per cent reservation for women in seats and offices of Chairpersons at all three tiers of panchayats was introduced in the Lok Sabha as it was recognised that 'women suffer multiple deprivations of class, caste and gender…and [that] enhancing reservation in panchayats will lead to more women entering the public sphere.'[17] Neema Kudva argues that 'the premise is that increasing women's participation in political processes, as both voters and candidates, will change the nature and functioning of public institutions, which will ultimately influence future development decisions and create a more equitable, gender responsive and humane society.'[18] For Gopal Niraja Jayal, 'underwriting these was the recognition that the local is most frequently the site of injustice, oppression and exploitation.' [19] In arguing for the representation of marginalised social groups, Anne Phillips, in The Politics of Presence, provides several reasons for the necessity of increased political representation of women through quotas: first, women as a social group have been subjected to systematic discrimination and marginalisation; second, there are gendered differences between men and women that translate into different political expectations and needs; third, because of the former, women can influence political agendas; and finally, women's presence in political institutions can be inspirational and set examples as role models for other women.[20] Though Phillips' analysis relates mainly to women's representation in national parliaments, it nonetheless resonates with politics at the local level as well.
  6. Whilst panchayats provided a forum for women, through mandatory quotas, to articulate their interests, Jayal stresses that it is important to understand 'if and to what extent women's interests came to be represented in these institutional forums.'[21] On the face of it women's involvement in local government seems to have been an effective strategy. Research points to how the increase in women's representation has had positive effects in terms of a greater understanding of the political system, greater investment in welfare and public goods, and the creation of a more structured administration.[22] It has enabled women to emerge from the 'shadows of their male patrons.'[23]
  7. Yet, it is important to ascertain whether this empowerment translates into effective governance. The reality of women's experiences at the local level is very different. Many women are unable to actualise their rights because of various limitations.[24] They lack knowledge of their rights and responsibilities as representatives of the panchayat. Illiteracy (especially among women belonging to SCs/STs), and restricted mobility, means that they are dependent on male proxies to attend meetings and make decisions on their behalf.[25] Male panchayat members often ignore women, and male family members attend panchayat meetings and take important decisions (referred to as panch patis) on behalf of women members. Indeed, it is often the case that women members are expected to simply rubber-stamp any decisions that have been made by men.[26] To exacerbate the problem, entrenched patriarchal attitudes means that women panchayat leaders, especially women from the lower castes, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes often face a lot of derision for their work and have to endure harassment from the community and their colleagues. [27] Frequently, Block Development Officers (BDOs) brush aside women's requests with statements such as, 'You are illiterate, send your husband,' or 'Why don't you sit at home and look after your children?[28] In an interesting study, Mahi Pal points out that even though the PRI system in Haryana has provided the space for dalits and dalit women to take on the responsibilities of panches, sarpanches and as elected representatives, the focus of their meetings 'has mostly been construction of houses, roads…and almost nil on the social issues such as problems of adverse sex ratio, anaemia among women…welfare schemes.'[29] More problematic is the fact that while the PRI's have become advocators of 'civic issues,' the responsibility for determining 'social issues' has been appropriated by khap panchayats,[30] through which they are able to exert power and set the agenda for appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.[31]
  8. Despite initial positive intentions to empower and improve the representation of women in politics (local, state and national), the system of elected panchayats has eventually come under pressure from khap panchayats, a panchayat of villagers who belong to the same gotra (clan or descent group).[32] Khap panchayats are, according to Prem Chowdhry, 'undemocratic in [their] structure and functioning'[33] and they have 'no elected principle.'[34] They override any notion of gender equality or gender empowerment that the Indian constitution endeavoured to provide through PRIs. Both Suraj Bhan Bharadwaj and Chowdhry suggest that khap panchayats often make claims to historical lineage to gain contemporary legitimacy.[35] For example, Bharadwaj argues that historically there was no 'organisation like the khap panchayat in the medieval period which was independent and autonomous in character.'[36] In the first census report of 1890–1891, Indians were divided on the basis of religion and caste, and further divided on the basis of 'gotras.' It was in this census report that the term khap first officially appeared.[37]
  9. A khap panchayat imposes its writ through a combination of social boycotts, fines and, in some cases, either killing or forcing the victims to commit suicide.[38] The northern state of Haryana has seen the most extreme cases of gendered 'honour' killings, though other states, such as Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, have also witnessed similar incidences. Haryana is second in the country in relation to high per capita income but lowest in relation to gender equality and sex ratio, the highest female foeticide, female infanticide and, more recently, khap authorised killings.

    Khap panchayat sanctioned violence—the rationality of 'honour'

  10. The Indian media has been rife with news reports about gendered 'honour killings' sanctioned by khap panchayats. For example, news headlines include: 'Honour killing? Lovers found dead in Sirsa field,'[39] 'Father kills girl for rejecting old groom.'[40] The role of khap panchayats in local politics have also received global media attention: for example, 'Why rural sexual violence remains rife in India,'[41] 'Outcry after rape of Indian girl aged 16 triggers calls for reduction in age of consent.'[42] Although these news reports often create ambiguity and confusion about the reasons surrounding the death, they nonetheless give us some insights into potential rationales behind the killings. The narratives often centre on couples who have engaged in 'forbidden' relationships, or who have decided to elope and are consequently punished by the community.[43] Forbidden relationships are those that are within the same village, outside of caste, inter-faith or within the same gotra.[44] Defiance or resistance against khap panchayat rulings is frequently met with violence.
  11. Marrying within the same village or gotra is viewed as incest and, consequently, is declared null and void by the local khap panchayat. The principle of village exogamy means that marriage in the same village is generally prohibited. In an interview, Khazan Singh, Professor of Sociology at the Maharshi Dayanand University (Rohtak), said that 'the principle of khap exogamy ensured that even different gotras falling in a particular khap could not intermarry.'[45] Since most members of the same caste in any given village usually belong to the same gotra, it follows that brides must expect to move from one village to another when they go to join their husbands, and that they will normally have no prior ties of kinship with either their mother-in-law or their sister-in-law. Thus all men and women of the same clan and the same village are bound by the morality of brother-sister and, therefore, both sex and marriage are prohibited between members of these units.[46] Marrying outside of caste is equally problematic.

    Gotra exogamy

  12. Ved Pal Maun (22), a medical practitioner in Mataur village (Kaithal district) was murdered on 22 July 2009, in Singhwal village of the Jind district whilst he was on his way to bring his wife, Sonia, from her parental house. They had got married under the Hindu Marriage Act. A police escort and the Punjab and Haryana high court warrant officer accompanied Ved Pal when he was lynched by a mob in his in-laws' village. He was dragged to the terrace in Sonia's house and stripped. His face and torso were beaten with sticks and his neck and shoulders were cut open with sickles and scythes. 'Not a single bone in my son's body was left intact. They kept beating him long after he was dead,' said his mother. Although his family lives five kilometres from Singhwal, they only came to know about the murder fourteen hours later. A copy of the postmortem report was not given to the family.[47]
  13. The couple came from different gotras (Sonia was of the Banwala gotra), both were Jats, it was not an inter-caste wedding, and the villages involved were located in different districts.[48] However, the Banwala khap argued that even though the gotras of the newly-weds were different, they, however, were from neighbouring villages where the norm of 'bhaichara' or 'seem-seemali' (a concept of fraternal neighbourhood for villages located in a proximate vicinity) applied. According to the principle of 'brotherhood' on which khaps organise themselves, marriages cannot take place between people of different castes. Within the same caste, marriages should not take place between people of the same gotra. Even when the gotras are different, people living in the same village or adjoining villages cannot marry. Marriages that fall in the latter two categories are interpreted as tantamount to 'incest,' though on account of the general paucity of girls and the difficulty in finding different gotras within the same caste group, some flexibility is allowed. Chowdhry argues that 'the most hallowed cultural concepts like aika, izzat, biradari and bhaichara are contingent upon maintaining the traditional marriage prohibitions. It is a breach in these prohibitions that provokes the biradari to use the traditional tools available to them in the form of caste or village or khap panchayats to stem such attempts.'[49] Paramjit Banwala, the head of the khap panchayat, who had convened an 'emergency meeting,' announced that the villagers 'will never tolerate any dishonour or violation of caste traditions.' The panchayat concluded that a grave violation had been committed since Sonia and Ved Pal were considered to be 'siblings,' because they were part of the same clan, which can include many families—and thus they had committed a grave crime by marrying. 'If young people live in our society they will have to adhere to and follow our age-old customs. Such relationships are unacceptable at any cost. Jat honour is supreme and must be preserved at any cost,' Banwala was quoted as saying to the local media at the time.[50]
  14. Two years prior to Ved Pal's death, the same Banwala khap had sanctioned the killing of Manoj and Babli of Karora village in 2007 (Kaithal district).[51] All the residents of Karora village belong to the same caste of Banwala, a Jat community, and marrying within the caste is considered to be sacrilegious. Manoj eloped with Babli to Chandigarh and married her on 7 April 2007 at a Durga temple. Furious with the marriage, Babli's family asked for an intervention from the local khap panchayat, which subsequently annulled the marriage and announced a social boycott of Manoj's family. The court intervened by granting the couple police protection. Accompanied by five police officers, Manoj and Babli left for Chandigarh. The police, however, left them at Pipli and slipped away, whilst Manoj and Babli took the bus for Karnal. Alerted to their whereabouts, Babli's relatives stopped the bus near Raipur Jatan village, about 20 kilometres from Pipli. The couple was murdered.

    Caste endogamy

  15. Caste is forever omnipresent in rural village politics and it plays such an important role that the actions of an individual or family can have profound implications for the whole caste community. The political, economic and social control exercised by dominant castes is contingent on political force—for example, police collusion, corruption and impunity. Also important is winning the consent of dominated castes by making compromises (for example, the election of a Dalit sarpanch—an elected head of a village level statutory institution of local government known as the gram panchayat). Persuading dominated castes to accept their position in society as 'common sense' and part of the natural order (e.g. through religious (Hindu) customs, values and beliefs) is another form of domination. For example, when a Dalit boy eloped with two young Jat girls in Talao village (Jhajjar district of Haryana), the Jats, who constituted the dominant caste group in the village, decided that all the Dalits in the village should be 'punished collectively for transgressing strict caste norms.'[52] When an upwardly mobile Dalit, Rotash Kumar, spoke to the media about tensions in the village, the khap, in response, decreed that 'young Dalit men, including Rohtash, would slap each other with slippers' as a punishment.[53] Furthermore, a fine of Rupees 2,100 was imposed on each of the men. As for the two Jat girls, they died under 'mysterious circumstances.' It was only when the matter reached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and a notice was issued to the Superintendent of Police, Jhajjar, that writs were filed against four people under the Schedule Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (1989).
  16. Interestingly, the elected sarpanch, who was also a Dalit was not permitted by the Jats to intervene in the issue. This demonstrates how elected panchayats that are recognised in statute are often powerless, especially when the sarpanch is a Dalit, in relation to khap panchayats. In another instance, Rajo Devi of Sasrauli village (Rohtak district) was asked to leave her village by the khap elders after her son eloped with a girl from a higher caste. Rajo Devi belonged to the blacksmith community and her son had a relationship with a Gosain (Brahmin) girl. The elected sarpanch refused to intervene in the decision made by khap panchayats.[54] As Stuart Corbridge, John Harriss and Craig Jeffrey state, 'nowhere is [the] residual importance of caste difference and caste hierarchy in marriage arrangements better illustrated than in the caste panchayats that continue to adjudicate on situations in which people have contravened marriage norms in many parts of north India.'[55] Furthermore, the 'community' as a whole often supports khap panchayat sanctioned honour killings. Therefore, women in the household and the community are often complicit in these killings. Interestingly, notions of caste purity are conveniently forgotten during sexual liaisons or sexual assaults (rape) carried out by higher caste men against lower caste women, or for that matter when young women are abducted and married into 'bachelor villages.'[56]

    'Choice' marriage killings

  17. It is not necessarily always the case that a killing takes place only after the khap has issued its diktat. In the prevailing climate of impunity, it is the unsaid norm that if parents and extended family participate in a killing without the formal approval of the khap panchayat, they would get unrelenting support from the khap panchayat. Couples are killed for marrying against the wishes of their parents. Indeed, whilst 'many commentators predicted the spread of individual choice and romantic love…most studies suggest that a widespread move away from a system of caste-based marriage has not taken place.'[57] For example, Naresh, who belongs to an economically weaker section of Jats, murdered his 17-year-old daughter when she refused to go with the 50-year-old groom he had chosen.[58] In another case, Maya (aged 17), a class XI student, and Inderpal (aged 22), an agricultural labourer, were beaten to death and their bodies were disposed of in a cotton field in Sirsa's Phulkan village. Allegedly, they had 'planned to marry against the wishes of Maya's parents.'[59] Police investigations could not ascertain who was behind the brutal killings. Maya and Inderpal were beaten with iron rods, their skulls cracked and Maya beheaded. 'Love marriages' present a clear threat to the 'intricate web of social material and cultural factors requiring specific marriage structures…and often elopement…provides an avenue' to realise one's choice of partner. Uma Chakravarti argues that 'elopements have also provided the space for development of the 'criminality of marriage' in India.'[60]
  18. Thus khap panchayat-sanctioned violence can range from direct physical violence, such as murder, murder guised as suicide and public lynching, to symbolic violence such as the social boycott of a family, forcing a family to leave the village, or in some cases the panchayat forcing the couple into tying a rakhi (a customary band tied round the wrist) to suggest that their relationship is one of brother and sister. Khap panchayats use violence as a mechanism of control and oppression for creating a climate of fear in order to uphold local hegemony. Indeed, it is about creating a culture of silence and resignation, which sustain each other. Moreover, the relationships between men and women are determined by what is considered as 'appropriate desire…that which perpetuates patriarchal lineage and property systems.'[61] Arguably, the issue of marriage is intimately woven through the complex tapestry of land politics and patriarchal lineage.

    The politics of land
  19. After Independence in 1947,[62] India embarked on the road of modernity with Jawaharlal Nehru's vision of a modern nation.[63] The Soviet-style Five-Year Plans were considered by Nehru to be essential for transforming India's poor agrarian economy into a self-generating modern economy within two or three decades. Unlike plans in communist-states, Indian plans accommodated the private sector for entrepreneurs who remained a powerful grouping in the Indian economy.[64] However, the plans were based on the premise that the country's resources would relieve the masses from poverty, and as a result establish a just society based not on individual greed and private profit but on co-operative efforts.[65] More broadly, the consensus was that such a model of development would promote the integrity, continuity, and stability of India's democratic system. The first plan was initiated in 1950. With a view to promote central and state planning linkages, the National Development Council was set up in 1952. Even under the Ninth Five Year Plan (1997–2000), these development programmes remained in progress.
  20. In order to improve India's agriculture, the Congress Party leaders promised to redistribute the surplus land holdings of zamindars (large landowners) among tenants and initiated land reforms with the introduction of the Zamindari Abolition and Tenancy Acts of the 1950s. The impetus for land redistribution was initially ideological as 'there was a broad consensus among the central leaders that inequalities in the countryside were inconsistent with the democratic and social goals of the Congress and that, therefore, land ceilings should be imposed and the surplus land made available be distributed amongst the poorer farmers and the landless.'[66] Intermediaries were abolished, tenancy reformed and land ceilings were set on agricultural land.[67] Big zamindars were dispossessed of their land through land reforms, zamindari abolition and the 'bhoodan movement' (land reform movement). In caste terms, the principal losers in northern Indian states, such as Haryana, were Rajput Thakurs and to a lesser extent Bania and Kayastha landlords.[68] The Tenancy Act of 1950 benefitted the upper strata of backward castes in Northern states of Western Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana—the Yadavs (Ahirs), Kurmis, Jats and Koeris, who transformed from 'cultivating castes' into 'landowning castes.'[69] These 'middle' peasant groups came to known as 'bullock capitalists/independent agricultural producers/Backward Castes.'[70] In an important study, Lloyd Rudolph and Suzanne H Rudolph have shown that by 1970s the 'bullock capitalists' owned more land than other agrarian classes (the landless, small holders and large holders).[71] Coupled with the constitutional protection provided by the Indian State governments to Backward Castes and the right to vote for all, the Backward Castes consolidated their power and slowly emerged as politically and economically affluent. In the rural areas, the developmental agenda of the state was thus subverted by the emergence of neo-rich Backward Caste peasantry and upper caste groups. The landless Dalit labourers or peasant farmers with small plots of land seldom benefitted from land reform. The newly prosperous groups also blocked all subsequent attempts at reform designed for those who belonged to castes and groups further down the hierarchy. A new local hegemony appeared with the land reforms.
  21. There were further changes to the land economy with the Green Revolution (1960).[72] India's agricultural policies were geared to pushing the New Agricultural Strategy programme which entailed encouraging 'high responsive varieties,' in particular wheat. However, initial economic benefits were overshadowed by social and ecological problems such as the loss of diversity associated with traditional agriculture, together with the harm caused by increased pesticide use, soil erosion and increasing conflicts over diminishing water resources. Furthermore, the prime beneficiaries have been larger farmers and agrochemical companies and in particular, as Vandava Shiva has pointed out, 'the need to purchase inputs—has generated new inequalities between those who could use the new technology profitably, and those for whom it turned into an instrument of dispossession. Small farmers—who make up nearly half of the farming population—have been particularly badly hit.'[73] According to Shiva, 'peasant movements had tried to restructure agrarian relationships through the recovery of land rights. The Green Revolution tried to restructure social relationships by separating the issue of agricultural production from issues of justice. Green Revolution politics was primarily a politics of depoliticisation.'[74]
  22. The national imperatives of the Green Revolution to 'feed India' were superseded by the global ambition of the NEP. Indeed it was hoped that the new policy would overcome the detrimental legacy of the Green Revolution by opening up the Indian agricultural sector to global investment and global consumerism.[75] Standards of living (including impressive residences and access to consumer durables), have improved for some; farmers have invested in local initiatives such as building cold-storage plants and setting up factories and shops; they have paid for higher education and sponsored overseas migration. Moreover, the NEP has encouraged some farmers to diversify away from staple production such as wheat into high-risk, high-profit crops such as mushrooms and strawberries for which demand has been stimulated by both the globalised tastes of the metropolitan élites and the opportunity to air-freight fruits to supermarkets in the global north.[76] These changes in agricultural policy have had profound implications for smaller, medium and marginal peasant farmers, especially in terms of further marginalisation due to the division of property and the lack of investment in non-farm activities. Christophe Jeffrelot observes how 'this new prosperity was far from being evenly distributed. The small and marginal peasants did not profit from it.… Liberalisation not only led to greater social inequality, but also to the unprecedented regional disparities within state (rural areas lagging behind urbanised ones) and between states'[77]. Since the 1990s, there has been an increase in suicides among small and marginal farmers in Punjab, which has been directly linked to increased indebtedness and economic stagnation.[78]
  23. Changes in production patterns also reflect broader changes in the significance and utility of land in India. In remarking on the connections between the landed elites and the political-bureaucratic system, Manpreet Sethi argues that

      the oppressed have either been co-opted with some benefits, or further subjugated as the new focus on liberalisation, globalisation, privatisation, and globalisation has altered government priorities and public perceptions…we are today at a juncture where land—mostly for the urban, educated elite, who are also the powerful decision makers—has become more a matter of housing, investment, and infrastructure building; land as basis of livelihood—for subsistence, survival, social justice, and human dignity—has largely been lost.[79]

  24. Importantly, the macroeconomic interests of the international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization, also influenced changes in government land policy during the 1990s.[80] Asit Das observes that 'under pressure from the Bretton Woods institution, subsidies were withdrawn, while the costs of inputs soar making farming nonviable for the majority of farmers, especially small, middle and marginal peasants…the MNCs and Indian corporations have emerged as new feudal lords in their predatory neoliberal era of global enclosure and ruthless 21st-century primitive accumulation.'[81] For Das the upper castes of absentee landlords represented by the kulak lobby in politics played a pivotal role in facilitating the entry of international business into Indian agriculture. Therefore, the significance of land has changed under globalisation. Established hegemonies are being either challenged or transformed by elite urbanised politics and sectorial interests that are global and local.
  25. Haryana also experienced these development trends but it has also witnessed a hike in khap panchayat-sanctioned killings. Anxieties related to economic change and local political uncertainties have reinforced struggles over scarce resources. Ranbir Singh, a sociologist who has worked extensively on caste in Haryana, gives an interesting explanation for the dominance of khap panchayats in Haryana,

      Jats, being marginal farmers, have not only been bypassed by the process of economic development but have been further marginalized by it. This is because they could not take advantage of the Green Revolution due to their tiny and uneconomic land holdings, could not enter modern professions due to lack of academic qualifications and could not take up some other occupations due to caste pride. Their lot has been made even more difficult by the processes of liberalization, privatization and globalization. Their disenchantment with political leadership has made these pauperized peasants look backwards instead of forward.[82]

    In a situation as poor as that which exists in India's rural areas, arguably only the state can provide the investment necessary to bring about change. Yet policies of liberalisation require increasingly market-driven approaches and limited state intervention (that is the 'rolling-back of the state'). Therefore, this will not bring about the enforcement of land reform, which is so desperately needed. More broadly, there is every sign that the emphasis on cash crops will cause greater landlessness, increased indebtedness, and further exploitation of rural workers. There are also important gendered implications. There is evidence that demonstrates how the mechanisation of core agricultural tasks has removed women from the fields and into the family home.[83]
  26. A parallel development to the transition in land politics is the emergence of an assertive Dalit political identity which have enabled Dalits to acquire a modicum of political and economic power. First, the traditional political economy of labour through which caste reproduces itself is now being challenged by Dalits. Gopal Guru argues that the Dalit 'pursuit of modernity' has seen them accessing the 'language of rights to equality, freedom, dignity and self-respect' and to reject the 'language of obligation,'[84] which Dalits see as confining them to 'negative rights' such as right over flesh (raw hide and flesh of dead cattle) and food (left-over food of the upper castes). Dalits refuse to perform these stigmatised tasks for the upper castes (and upwardly-mobile Backward Castes) or to give in to the economic exploitation of their labour.[85] This breaks the embedded dependencies in an exploitative hierarchical political economy of labour. The upper castes and upper backward castes struggle to find labour willing to engage in 'untouchable' jobs, which ultimately to leads to recriminations and/or violence. Human rights activists, who have both raised Dalit demands for dignity of life and labour as 'matters of global concern' and define 'Dalit identity in terms of human rights,' have taken up such issues.[86] Second, the change from traditional bonded labour to wage labour challenges the vetbigari (bonded labour) system, which is based on exploitative 'physical and mental' labour.[87] However, Dalit resistance for a fair wage along with 'a fixed and regulated notion of time'[88] has created tensions and conflicts in agrarian relations between landowning groups, such as Thakurs and Rajputs (and the newly prosperous 'upper' Backward Castes), and non-landowning Dalits. Such tensions have at times manifested themselves in violent action by landowning caste groups towards rural Dalits, their families and communities. Third, Dalits are making inroads in education and politics (due to the Mandal Commission and affirmative action) and this upward mobility also enables them to negotiate themselves out of 'economic bondage' with the rural oligarchs. Constitutional and legal provisions grant Dalits certain protections, including reservations (quotas) in educational institutions and government bodies. Vasanth Kannabiran and Kalpana Kannabiran argue that by moving beyond 'essentialist and ahistorical frameworks,' one can see how 'Dalits have excelled in education—a strong upper caste preserve,' have representatives in the Congress party and have acquired more 'bargaining power' for themselves.[89] Dipankar Gupta suggests that 'modernization has not only brought machines, but, more crucially, changed relations between people…arous(ing) a great deal of opposition and resentment from the entrenched powerful castes.'[90] Though a modicum of cultural and political capital has brought the Dalit agenda onto the mainstream politics, the atrocities against Dalit men and women have continued unabated in the countryside in Northern India. The recent spate of 'honour' killings might be a cause and consequence of the changing socio-economic relations whereby Dalits refuse to be tyrannised. A recent study sponsored by the National Commission of Women (NCW) and conducted by an NGO, Shakti Vahini, examined 326 cases of 'honour' killings in recent times. It found that only 3 per cent of these cases involved same-gotra marriages. Furthermore, 15 per cent of the cases involved own-choice marriages within the same caste but without the consent of the family. Finally, 72 per cent of the cases involved inter-caste marriages.
  27. The politics of land also reflects the gendered anxiety over its ownership and re-distribution. In a strongly patriarchal and patrilineal society such as Haryana, land is assumed to belong to the 'male descendants of ancestors'[91] who alone had reversionary rights to the estate. Furthermore, contemporary socio-economic and legal changes (NEP) have adversely affected the landowning classes which explains why they limit land claims in order to prevent its further fragmentation, mortgage and sale. Women become sites of conflicting interests since they are viewed as potential introducers of 'fresh blood' (progeny) and 'new descent lines' through husbands. Thus, to be kept legally outside the purview of inheritance rights, women were entitled only to maintenance s Prem Chowdhry warns to be 'suitably betrothed and married' for which a complete control of the marriage was necessary.[92] It is in the light of this that one can understand the long history of opposition to the Hindu Succession Act in Haryana and Punjab.
  28. The Hindu Succession Act (1956) was passed by the Parliament of India to amend and codify the law relating to intestate or unwilled succession (death without leaving a will) among Hindus. The Amended Hindu Succession Act (2005) removed gender discriminatory provisions, allowing daughters of the deceased equal rights along with sons. The daughter of a coparcener cell by birth becomes a coparcener in her own right in the same manner as the son does.[93] The daughter has the same rights in the coparcenary property as she would have had if she had been a son. Thus a daughter who makes an own-choice marriage is more likely to claim her share of land and property —which is why such marriages are under attack. The Haryana Assembly twice passed a resolution to change the Hindu Succession Act in order to restrict daughters' rights to inherit twice —once in 1967, a year after the state was formed, and once again in 1979 when the Congress Government, led by Bhajan Lal, moved the resolution Sushma Swaraj was one and among the MLAs who supported it.[94] Neerja Ahlawat argues that 'the khap member's acceptability and prestige in the agrarian society gained legitimacy for their assertion against potential female inheritors.'[95] and often potential female inheritors are coerced to write off their land claims or be killed by their male family members. This needs to be understood in terms of the increasing number of educated women who are exercising more autonomy vis-à-vis social relationships.
  29. Furthermore, khaps are striving for the Hindu Marriage Act to ban same-gotra marriages.[96] Khap panchayats and their mainstream political representatives, including Congress's Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda and Member of Parliament, Naveen Jindal have erected a respectable pseudo-'scientific' smokescreen with the demand for an amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) that will ban same-gotra marriages, falsely claiming that same-gotra marriages lead to 'genetic disorders.' In a newspaper report, Court versus Khap Sunil Dahiya, the secretary of Haryana's oldest and largest khaps, Dahiya, told the reporter that India's antiquated system of justice 'validates marriages between same-gotra "brother” and "sister.”'[97] This is why 'the victimized families have to resort to (honour) killings.'[98] Supporting the arbitrary semi-feudal justice system, he adds: 'we are all of the view that if there are no khaps, crime rate will be twenty times of what it is now. Young boys and girls will start marrying in the same gotra, they will play loud music, girls will wear skimpy clothes—everything will go haywire.'[99] Responding to the ruling of Supreme Court of India (19/04/11) that khap killings are 'barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal feudal-minded persons who deserve punishment,' Dr. Jaikishan, a Dahiya Khap representative, said that 'we will continue to function the way we do in the greater interest of our community.'[100]
  30. Anxiety about land is related to the abysmal sex ratio in this region of Haryana-Punjab-Western UP (due to female foeticide, neglect of the girl child and female infanticide), which has led to a shrinking pool of 'marriageable' women. This in turn may have resulted in intensified resentment over any person perceived as an 'outsider' (outside the khap community) trespassing into the very limited 'pool.' Khaps in Haryana still proclaim the primacy of male heirs and have played a key role in reducing Haryana's sex ratio to an abysmal low, thereby contributing to other social problems such as bride markets, import of brides from other states such as Assam, West Bengal, Tripura, Chhattisgarh and even Kerala or 'bachelor villages.'[101] For example, in 2004, the Tevatia khap 'deliberated' on a property dispute in Duleypur. The khap decreed that families with fewer than two sons were not eligible to approach the khap about property disputes as those 'unfortunate' families had 'lesser scope' towards carrying forward the father's name or increasing family assets. They simply deserved less, the khap said. This has had devastating effects. Families, desperate for the 'required' two sons are using every trick in the book to avoid female births— even killing baby girls. In 2004, a statement by the Tevatia khap offers a revealing explanation for the shockingly adverse sex ratio. Kanta Singh, member of the Tevatia khap and father with a daughter older than his three sons, said, 'Sons are a man's assets. My sons will take my name forward and expand my farms. They will earn money to pay for this girl's dowry and marriage.'[102] When asked where his sons will find brides, considering the scarcity of girls, he answered rather arrogantly, 'They will earn enough not to have to worry about that.'[103]
  31. According to a report by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the sex ratio in 28 villages in Ballabhgarh block —an area 'governed' by the Tevatia khap in Faridabad—has declined sharply. After a pro-male khap diktat, the sex ratio in Ballabhgarh fell from 683 females per 1000 males in to 370 per 1000 males.[104] The report shows a direct correlation between sex determination tests and the abortion of female foetuses. Shockingly, because of the failure of the state to notify the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, which bans sex-determination tests nationwide, courts were forced to acquit the doctors arrested for conducting sex determination tests in Haryana.[105] Dr Anand, who was in-charge of AIIMS' Rural Health Services Centre in Ballabhgarh[106] since September 2006, said, 'The report clearly reveals that fewer females are born as second or third children in families that are yet to have a boy.'[107] This could be a veiled reference to the fact that Haryana has one of the country's largest 'bride markets,' where trafficked girls are sold and exchanged. In her study, Kaur found that whilst Haryani Jats stressed the importance of caste purity, they, rather contradictorily, also made a great issue of the fact that they are importing non-Jat brides from Orissa, Kerala and Assam.[108]

    Young men and unemployment
  32. As discussed above, whilst rapid globalisation and liberalisation has proved fruitful for many Indians in cities and towns, it has proved less successful in providing opportunities in rural areas, especially for young men. In rural Haryana, unemployment is rife amongst young men. As a result, young unemployed men are increasingly dependent on landed elders who also control the khap panchayats. Chowdhry argues that 'the support of unemployed…men to the working of the caste panchayat is conspicuous in matters dealing with the breach of marriage norms, like territorial and clan exogamy or caste endogamy.'[109] The reason why young unemployed men support khap panchayat dictates is that they are often 'vulnerable to the charge of emasculation/effeminacy' because they are unable to fulfil the 'bread winner' role expected of them in their communities.[110] As a result, they seek acceptance 'by supporting/participating and implementing the decisions of the dominant caste male leadership who call the shots at the traditional panchayat' in order to maintain local hegemony.[111] The implications however are broader and gendered. Chowdhry discusses how the behaviour of young men in contemporary Haryana has often led to parents disciplining their daughters far more closely within the household. When a young man is unemployed, his positionality within the community is constructed accordingly (that is, his childhood becomes extended in many respects). Young unemployed men are understood to be dependent (psychological and economic) and under the extended surveillance of the local hegemony of the elders. Chowdhry writes that,

      the unemployed male segment of Haryana society has been the major supporter and implementer of such decisions…[they] are likely to see the transgression of marriage norms in a more problematic way. It has much to do with the breach of caste and customary norms as with the patriarchal concern with masculinity. Now that they have the popular public opinion with them, they get overly anxious, verging on the belligerent, when traditional norms in marriage are breached or when other caste girls are sought to be brought into their caste fold or even worse if their caste women marry across caste, class and status lines.[112]

    At the same time, and rather ironically, Chowdhry outlines that young men have also adopted consumption practices and values associated with the urban male population, which 'has meant new standards of behaviour and lifestyle [and] new ways of spending time and money.'[113] So whilst they guard against change within their communities, young unemployed men in rural areas are also adopting consumption patterns associated with the west that they are increasingly exposed to in their everyday lives by the increasing globalisation in India. Changes in consumption patterns amongst young men are financially supported by elders in the khap on the condition that young men carry out the dictates of the khap panchayat. The relationship becomes a cyclical one, but ultimately one of dependency and asymmetrical power relations in favour of male elders.

    The politics of impunity: politicians and the police
  33. The stress and strain brought about by globalisation are enhanced by the criminalisation of politics and the shared (or agreed) silence on these 'honour' killings. First, as Rajeshwari Sunder Rajan has written, state functionaries, such as politicians and police officers, who are meant to be 'guarantors of rights to its citizens, have invariably emerged instead as major perpetrators of injustices.'[114] Poor law enforcement mechanisms, widespread impunity, and the politics-police-and-criminal nexus have all contributed to khap panchayat-sanctioned killings not being properly investigated. In the Manoj-Babli incident, the Karnal District Court accused six police personnel of dereliction of duty. This included the head constable, Jayender Singh, sub-inspector, Jagbir Singh, and the members of the escort party provided to the couple. In his statement, the State Superintendent of Police stated, 'It is correct that the deceased couple had given [instructions] in writing not to take police security any further, but Jagbir Singh was well aware that there was a threat to their lives from the relatives of the girl.'[115] The report revealed that Jayender informed Gurdev Singh (cousin of Babli) of the whereabouts of Manoj and Babli. Thus, even though the courts had ordered protection for the couple, corrupt police officers deceived them.[116] It is also often the case that runaway couples are confined to shelter homes, which may not be the most productive solution.[117] Second, political leaders who treat khaps as vote banks also extend patronage to them. Khap panchyats are powerful vote banks because they rule over approximately eighty-four villages. It is, therefore, unsurprising then that no one dares to challenge them. This nexus explains the studied silence maintained by notable political leaders in Haryana about khap atrocities irrespective of the party affiliation. Furthermore, in 2007, the ruling party in Haryana supported the khaps by declaring that these were social institutions in which the state administration should not interfere. When Times Now asked Haryana's Chief Minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, himself a Jat, whether his government intended to take any action against khap panchayats for taking the law into their own hands, the defiant Chief Minister repeatedly said, 'The law will take its own course. Whoever has committed a crime will be punished.'[118] In April 2009, in the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress Party in Haryana won nine of the ten seats in the State, thus cementing Hooda's position as the undisputed leader of the party and of the Jat community in the State. Third, Haryana state's patronisation of khaps has further strengthened the position of khaps. For example, Jats are making demands on the state to provide constitutional provisions that permit reservation for Jats in government jobs and educational institutions, and to include them in the Other Backward Caste (OBC) category. Ahlawat discusses how the Congress party delegation, led by the then-Chief Minister, Bhupender Singh Hooda, and the Leader of the Opposition in Punjab, Sunil Jakhar, met the Union Home Minister with such a proposition and how 'the quota crutch has become an important tool in the vote bank politics of almost all leading political parties in Haryana.'[119] Furthermore, on 8 April 2012, the Haryana State government constituted the Haryana Backward Classes Commission. In his report to the Chief Secretary, P.K. Chaudhary, Chairman of the Justice Commission, K.C. Gupta (retired), recommended 10 per cent reservation for Jats, Bishnois, Jat Sikhs, Rors and Tyagis in the OBC category, in addition to the already existing 27 per cent reservation for other castes in this category. The Haryana cabinet in principle approved of the recommendations with chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, stating that the recommendations regarding inclusion of five castes, which include Jats and Jat Sikhs, will be forwarded to the Union government for inclusion in the OBC list.[120]
  34. Arguably, political patronage has emboldened the khap councils to pass diktats on appropriate gendered behaviour with impunity. Some media commentators see their behaviour as sharing similar features with society under the Taliban regime. For example, in March 2007, the Ruhal khap banned DJs from playing music in marriage parties in Rohtak. The explanation given was the 'disturbance to milch animals.'[121] Yet, the real reason for the prohibition was a determination to prevent girls and women from dancing in public spaces. Soon, two other khaps adopted similar positions, thus spreading the ban to at least 83 villages around Rohtak. Pankaj Ruhal, an activist for Ruhal khap, stated when 'youngsters drink and dance to loud music…cows can't sleep in the night and it becomes difficult to milk them in the morning. Women who used to stay indoors started dancing publicly. This is against our tradition.'[122] Similarly, in April 2007, Tewa Singh, head of the Daadan khap, banned cricket and watching cricket matches on television in 28 villages in Jind district as 'young boys were going astray.'[123] Daadan khap's secretary, Jogi Ram, said, 'Elders should ask their children to play kabaddi, kho-kho and wrestling. Cricket is not a game at all.'[124] Those found guilty, the khap warned, would be fined 'for seven generations.'[125] Unconfirmed reports state that khaps near Karnal district have banned both the television and radio. Furthermore, the khap panchayat led by the head of the Battisa khap, Baba Suraj in Bhenswal village, passed a diktat on 16 January 2011, which claimed that wearing jeans had a 'bad effect' on young women and incidents of 'eve-teasing' (which is a euphemism used in India for the sexual harassment of women) had increased due to their 'objectionable clothes.'[126]

    Concluding remarks
  35. In understanding the role of khap panchayats and honour killings in contemporary globalised India, a number of observations can be made. Khap panchayats can be understood as subversive counter-systems to formal institutionalised democracy in India. These localised forms of governance seek to contest relations and structures of power that are inscribed in the Indian State and processes of globalisation, which often complement each other. More specifically, two observations can be made about the increasing assertion of khap panchayats. First, they can be seen as a response to the socio-cultural and political dislocation attributed to the economic restructuring associated with India's New Economic Policy that opened it up to global forces and pressures to liberalise. Moreover, on the one hand it is a conflict between individualism of the market and the pressures of political liberalisation (for ex. human rights, secularism, freedom and equality) and on the other hand the collective ethos of khap panchayats in terms of localised politics, local traditions and local values. Second, Indian democracy has failed to improve the lives of many. In fact, the path to progress and development has been élite-led and mired by corruption, nepotism and parasitic core-periphery relations (central government in Delhi). Liberalisation in India has increased consumerism and created a situation whereby more people experience a growing cleavage between the desires intensified by the images that they are being increasingly exposed to and the actual resources to fulfil these desires. Agriculture and rural areas have been overlooked, ignored and they have been negatively impacted upon by contemporary processes of globalisation. Finally, in light of these observations khap panchayats provide continuity and 'order' at a time where there is the perceived threat to identity framed through local customs, traditions and practices. Therefore, the promotion of a conservative agenda (patriarchal) that is in contradiction to people's freedoms and rights is seen to be an important antidote to unwanted effects. All these have had the effect of deepening local cultural identities, local nationalism, ethnicities, caste and gender-based hierarchies. Interestingly, liberalisation and social fundamentalism reinforce each other! The Supreme Court of India has unequivocally stressed the illegality of khap panchayats and stated that police officials and bureaucrats who fail to protect people against the dictates of khap panchayats should be punished.[127] Efforts are being made to work collectively to promote synergy between national and local levels of governance but the struggle against local hegemonies, the fight for women's rights and the dignity of oppressed castes will be long.


    This research would have been impossible without the support of the Borbos Hansson (Uppsala University) research award. We would like to thank all our respondents for providing valuable information on such a difficult subject. A special thanks to Bharat Kathpalia and Anita Kathpalia for their help in the collection of articles and media related information on khap killings. A special thanks also goes to Janaki Kathpalia for providing references on the gotra and caste. Finally, we would like to thank Suneetha Rani and the two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions.


    [1] Sukhbir Siwach, 'Brutality of honour killing shocks court,' the Times of India, 2 April, 2010.

    [2] 'Honour killing in Haryana,' the Telegraph, 11 May 2008.

    [3] Vandana Shiva, India Divided: Diversity and Democracy under Attack, New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005; Peadar Kirby, Vulnerability and Violence – the Impact of Globalisation, London: Pluto Press, 2006.

    [4] Kellner Douglas, 'Theorizing globalization,' Sociological Theory, vol. 20 (2002):295–305, p. 300.

    [5] Anthony Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990, p. 175.

    [6] Terry Eagleton, The Idea of Culture, Oxford: Blackwell, 2000, p. 63.

    [7] Mary Kaldor, New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2001, pp. 69–70.

    [8] Kaldor, New and Old Wars, p. 70.

    [9] Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991, p. 81.

    [10] As stunningly illustrated in Rohinton Mistry's book, A Fine Balance, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Inc., 1995; also see Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things, London: Flamingo, 1997.

    [11] Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, translated and edited Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, London: Lawrence and Wishart International Publishers, 1971, p. 483.

    [12] Christine B.N. Chin and James H. Mittelman, 'Conceptualizing resistance to globalization,' in Globalisation and the Politics of Resistance, ed. Barry K. Gills, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000, pp 29–45, pp. 31–32.

    [13] Yoginder Gupta and Satish Seth, 'Honour killing rocks state, again,' the Tribune, Chandigarh, 2 July 2007; Sukhbir Siwach, 'Brutality of honour killing shocks court,' the Times of India, 2 April 2010; 'Four held, sent to custody in Haryana honour killing case,' the Indian Express, Karnal, 12 May 2008.

    [14] Shalendra Sharma, 'Politics and governance in contemporary India: the paradox of democratic deepening,' Journal of International and Area Studies vol. 1, (2002):77–101, p. 82.

    [15] Roadmap for the Panchayati Raj (2011–16): An All India Perspective, Ministry of Panchayati Raj,' February 2011, online:, Accessed: 14 September 2013.

    [16] Usha Narayanan, 'Women in Panchayats: the path ahead,' in Mainstream Weekly vol. XLVIII, no. 13 (20 March 2010),, accessed: 14 September 2013; and Sudhir Krishna, 'Women and Panchayati Raj: the law, programme and practices,' Journal of Rural Development, vol. 16, no. 4 (1997):651–62.

    [17] Roadmap for the Panchayati Raj (2011–16), p. 22.

    [18] Neema Kudva, 'Engineering elections: the experiences of women in Panchayati Raj in Karnataka, India,' International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, vol. 16, no. 3 (2003): 445–63, p. 446. [19] Gopal Niraja Jayal, 'Engendering local democracy: the impact of quotas for women in India's Panchayats,' Democratization, vol.13, no. 1 (2006): 15–35, p. 16.

    [20] Anne Phillips, The Politics of Presence, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1995, p. 58.

    [21] Jayal, 'Engendering local democracy,' p. 17.

    [22] Kudva, 'Engineering elections,' p. 447.

    [23] Meenakshi Kumar, 'Agents of change march on,' Sunday Times of India, New Delhi, 8 March 2009.

    [24] Anita Katyal, 'Women Panchayat leaders victims of male bias,' the Times of India, 16 October 1998.

    [25] Bidyut Mohanty and Vandana Mahajan, 'Women's empowerment in the context of seventy-third and seventy-fourth constitutional amendment acts: an assessment,' in A Decade of Women's Empowerment through Local Government in India, workshop report 20–21 October 2003, New Delhi, Institute of social science, pp. 1–20.

    [26] Kudva, 'Engineering elections,' p. 447.

    [27] Bidyut Mohanty, 'Panchayati Raj, 73rd Constitutional Amendment and women,' Economic and Political Weekly vol. XXX, no. 52 (30 December 1995): 3346–350, p. 3348.

    [28] Mohanty, 'Panchayati Raj, 73rd Constitutional Amendment and women,' p. 3349.

    [29] Mahi Pal, 'Caste and patriarchy in panchayats,' Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 39, no. 32 (7 August 2004): 3581–583, p. 3581.

    [30] The word 'khap,' a Sanskrit derivative of 'kashtrap,' meaning domain, is an institution which claims sovereignty over a particular area, 'either in the name of the clan or the gotra which is dominant in that area or by the name of geographical area.' See Ranbir Singh, 'The need to tame the khap panchayats,' Economic and Political Weekly, vol. XLV, no. 21 (22 May 2010): 17–18, p. 17.

    [31]Bhupendra Yadav, 'Khap panchayats: stealing freedom?' Economic and Political Weekly, vol. XLIV, no. 52 (26 December 2009): 16–18.

    [32] The Sarv Khap Panchayat has 300 subordinate Khaps and control roughly 25,000 villages across Haryana, Punjab, Western Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

    [33] Drawing on a case study from the state of Karnataka, Kripa Ananth Pur and Mick Moore argue that contrary to the popular perception of 'customary village councils' (CVC) as repressive and illegal institutions, CVC's are becoming more representative and pluralist in nature. See Kripa Ananth Pur and Mick Moore, 'Ambiguous institutions: traditional governance and local democracy in rural South India,' Journal of Development Studies, vol. 46, no. 4 (2010): 603–23.

    [34] Prem Chowdhry, Redeeming 'Honour' through Violence: Unravelling the Concept and its Application, CEQUIN, New Delhi, 2010, pp. 1–20.

    [35] Suraj Bhan Bharadwaj, 'Myth and reality of the khap panchayats: a historical analysis of the panchayat and khap panchayat,' Studies in History, vol. 28, no. 1 (2012): 43–67; Prem Chowdhry, Contentious Marriages, Eloping Couples, Gender, Caste and Patriarchy in Northern India, Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2007.

    [36] Bharadwaj, 'Myth and reality of the khap panchayats,' p. 65.

    [37] Bharadwaj, 'Myth and reality of the khap panchayats,' p. 48.

    [38] The Hindu, 7 May 2010; Indian Express, 12 September 2010; and J. Sangwan, 'Khap panchayat: signs of desperation,' the Hindu, 7 May 2010.

    [39] Bhaskar Mukherjee, 'Honour killing? Lovers found dead in Sirsa field,' the Times of India, New Delhi, 27 September 2010.

    [40] 'Father kills girl for rejecting old groom,' Mail Today, New Delhi, 5 July 2011.

    [41] 'Why rural sexual violence remains rife in India,' BBC, 21 October 2012.

    [42] 'Outcry after rape of Indian girl aged 16 triggers calls for reduction in age of consent,' the Independent Newspaper, 5 November 2012.

    [43] Jyothi Vishwanath and Srinivas C. Palakonda, 'Patriarchal ideology of honour and honour crimes in India,' International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, vol. 6, nos 1–2 (December 2011):386–95, p. 390.

    [44] Gotra was a brahmanical institution. In Atharveda, the word first appears with the meaning of the clan, which it has retained with a special connotation. Gotras are exogamous and members of the same gotra are found in many castes. All Brahmins were believed to have descended from one of the Rishis or legendary seers, after whom the gotra was named: Kasyapa, Vasistha, Bhrgu, Gautama, Bharadvaja, Atri and Visvamitra, Agastya. These primeval gotras were multiplied in later times by the inclusion of the names of many other ancient sages. The chief importance of gotra was in connection with marriage which was forbidden to persons of a common gotra. See Richard Lannoy, The Speaking Tree: A Story of Indian Culture and Society, London: Oxford University Press, 1971; G.S. Ghurye, Two Brahmanical Institutions: Gotra and Charana, Delhi: Popular Prakashan, 1972; Upinder Singh, Rethinking Early Medieval India: A Reader, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    [45] Interview with Khazan Singh conducted by Suruchi Thapar-Bjorkert, Delhi, 2011.

    [46] Roger Ballard, 'Migration and kinship: the differential effect of marriage rules on the processes of Punjabi migration to Britain,' in South Asian Overseas: Migration and Ethnicity, ed. Colin Clarke, Ceri Peach and Steven Vertovek, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990, pp. 219–51; and Paul Hershman, Punjabi Kinship and Marriage, Delhi: Hindustan Publishing Corporation, 1981.

    [47] Deepender Deswal, 'Honour killing: Ved Pal's in-laws among 12 held guilty,' the Times of India, Chandigarh, 25 September 2011.

    [48] T.K. Rajalakshmi, 'In the name of honour,' Frontline, vol. 26, no. 17, (15–28 August 2009), online:, accessed: 1 September 2013.

    [49] Chowdhry, 'Redeeming "honour” through violence,' p. 5.

    [50] 'Khap panchayat above Indian law in Haryana,' Times of India, 24 March 2010, online:, accessed: 17 September 2013.

    [51] T.K. Rajalakshmi, 'All for "honour,"' Frontline vol. 24, no. 14 (14–27 July 2007), online:, accessed April 2013.

    [52] T.K. Rajalakshmi, 'Caste terror,' the Hindu vol. 21, no. 25 (4–17 December 2004), online:, accessed: 17 September 2013.

    [53] Rajalakshmi, 'Caste terror.'

    [54] T.K. Rajalakshim, 'Caste injustice,' the Hindu vol. 22, no. 9 (23 April–6 May 2005), online:, accessed: 17 September 2013.

    [55] Stuart Corbridge, John Harriss and Craig Jeffrey, India Today – Economy, Politics and Society, Cambridge: Polity, 2013, p. 255.

    [56] Ravinder Kaur, 'Khap panchayats, sex ratio and female agency,' Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 43, no. 23 (2010): 14–16.

    [57] Corbridge, Harriss and Jeffrey, India Today, p. 254.

    [58] Vikas Kahol, 'Father kills girl for rejecting old groom,' Mail Today, New Delhi, 5 July 2011.

    [59] Mukherjee, 'Honour killing? Lovers found dead in Sirsa field.'

    [60] Uma Chakravati, 'From fathers to husbands: of love, death and marriage in North India,' in 'Honour' – Crimes, Paradigms and Violence against Women, ed. Lynn Welchman and Sara Hossain, London, Zed Books, 2005, pp. 308–31, p. 310; Prem Chowdhry, 'Enforcing cultural codes: gender and violence in northern India,' Economic and Political Weekly, vol.32, no.19 (1997):1019–028.

    [61] Nivedita Menon, 'Sexuality, caste, governmentality: contests over "gender" in India,' Feminist Review vol. 91 (2009): 94–112, p. 102.

    [62] During colonial rule, the Indian economy was predominantly agricultural and the prevalent land systems have been referred to as 'parasitic landlordism' and 'forcible commercialization.' See Henry Bernstein 'Agrarian structures and change,' in Rural Livelihoods – Crises and Reponses, ed. Henry Bernstein, Ben Crow and Hazel Johnston, Oxford: Oxford University Press in association with Milton Keynes: The Open University, 1992, pp. 51–64). Daniel Thorner and Alice Thorner argue that colonialism left India and much of South Asia with 'perhaps the world's refractory land problem.' Daniel Thorner and Alice Thorner, Land and Labour in India, Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1962, cited in Bernstein, 'Agrarian structures and change,' p. 52.

    [63] Jawaharlal Nehru was India's first Prime Minister and leader of the Congress Party.

    [64] Paul R. Brass, The Politics of India Since Independence, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994, p. 275.

    [65] Brass, The Politics of India Since Independence, p. 275.

    [66] Brass, The Politics of India Since Independence, p. 278.

    [67] Brass, The Politics of India Since Independence, p. 280.

    [68] M.N. Panini, 'The political economy of caste,' in Caste: Its Twentieth Century Avatar, ed. Mysore Narasimhachar Srinivas, New Delhi: Penguin, 1996, pp. 28–67.

    [69] Panini, 'The political economy of caste,' p. 32.

    [70] Meenakshi Jain, 'Backward castes and social change in UP and Bihar,' in Caste: Its Twentieth Century Avatar, ed. Mysore Narasimhachar Srinivas, New Delhi: Penguin, 1996, pp. 136–51, p. 138.

    [71] Lloyd Rudolph and Suzanne H. Rudolph, In Pursuit of Lakshmi: The Political Economy of the Indian State, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

    [72] The impact of the Green Revolution has been widely documented. See Rekha Pande, 'Gender, poverty and globalisation in India,' Development, vol. 50, no. 2 (2007): 134–40.

    [73] Vandana Shiva, 'The green revolution in the Punjab,' the Ecologist, vol. 21, no. 2 (1991): 57–60.

    [74] Vandana Shiva, The Violence of the 'Green Revolution', London: Zed Books, 1991, p. 56.

    [75] For an excellent paper on the impact of capitalist farming in the Punjab, see Surinder Jodhka, 'Return of the middle class,' in Seminar, vol. 47 no, 6 (1999): 21–25.

    [76] Ramesh Vinayaak, 'Futuristic farmers,' in India Today International, vol. 22, no. 38 (1998): 44–45.

    [77] Christophe Jeffrelot, Religion, Caste and Politics in India, London: Hurst & Company, 2010, p. xxv.

    [78] During 1992–93, suicides in the Punjab increased by 51.9 per cent and again during 1994–95, the figures went up by 57 per cent. See Jodhka, 'Return of the middle class,' p. 25.

    [79] Manpreet Sethi, 'Land reform in India: issues and challenges,' ín Promised Land, ed. Peter Rosset, Raj Patel and Micheal Courville, Oakland, CA: Food First Book, 2006, pp. 73–92, p. 74.

    [80] Sethi, 'Land reform in India,' p. 75.

    [81] Asit Das, 'Special economic zones and the land question in India,' South Asian Dialogue on Ecological Democracy, online:, accessed: 17 August 2013.

    [82] Ranbir Singh, quoted in Neha Dixit, 'A Taliban of our very own,' Tehelka vol. 6, no. 32 (15 August 2009), online:, accessed: 15 September 2013.

    [83] Roger Jeffrey and Patricia Jeffrey, Population, Gender and Politics: Demographics in Rural North India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997; Prem Chowdhury, The Veiled Woman: Shifting Gender Relations in Rural Haryana, 1880–1990, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.

    [84] Gopal Guru, 'Dalits in pursuit of modernity,' in India: Another Millennium?, ed. Romila Thapar, Delhi: Viking Penguin, 2000, pp. 123–37, p. 124.

    [85] Smita Narula, Broken People: Caste Violence against India's Untouchables, New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999, p. 11.

    [86] Anupama Rao, Gender and Caste: Issues in Contemporary Indian Feminism, Delhi: Kali for Women, 2003, p. 12.

    [87] Guru, 'Dalits in pursuit of modernity,' p. 124.

    [88] Guru, 'Dalits in pursuit of modernity,' p. 124.

    [89] Vasanth Kannabiran and Kalpana Kannabiran, 'Caste and gender: understanding dynamics of power and violence,' Economic and Political Weekly vol. 26, no. 27 (1991): 2130–133, p. 2131.

    [90] Dipankar Gupta, Mistaken Modernity: India Between Worlds, Delhi: Harper Collins, 2000, p. 27.

    [91] Neejra Ahlawat, 'The political economy of Haryana's khaps,' Economic and Political Weekly, vol. XLVII, nos 47 and 48 (2012): 15–17, p. 16.

    [92] Chowdhry, Contentious Marriages.

    [93] A coparcener is a joint heir.

    [94] Ironically, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj in 2012 has asked for the political empowerment of women as the 'most important step for the upliftment of women.' See 'Sushma Swaraj calls for political empowerment of women,' the Hindu, New Delhi, 5 October 2012.

    [95] Ahlawat, 'The political economy of Haryana's khaps,', p. 16.

    [96] Malini Nair, 'Khap panchayata flex muscle as shifting social dynamic threaten their relevance,' DNA – Daily News and Analysis, 18 April 2010.

    [97] A. Divya, 'Court versus Khap,' Sunday Times of India, 1 May 2011.

    [98] Divya, 'Court versus Khap.'

    [99] Divya, 'Court Versus Khap.'

    [100] Divya, 'Court Versus Khap.'

    [101] Tania Branigan, 'China's village of the bachelors: no wives in sight in remote settlement,' the Guardian, Banzhushan, Hunan, 2 September 2011. This article addresses similar issues. 'Tens of millions of men across China face a future as bachelors…the result has long been a surplus of men, because of female infanticide or excess female deaths through neglect.'

    [102] Dixit, 'A taliban of our very own.'

    [103] Dixit, 'A taliban of our very own.'

    [104] 'Comprehensive Rural Health Service Project (CRHSP) Ballabgarh,' Centre for Community Medicine: The All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, n.d., online:, accessed 4 October 2013.

    [105] Dixit, 'A taliban of our very own.'

    [106] Ballabhgarh is located in the Faridabad District of Haryana.

    [107] Dixit, 'A taliban of our very own.'

    [108] Ravinder Kaur, 'Khap panchayats, sex ratio and female agency,' in Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 43, no. 23 (2010): 14–16.

    [109] Prem Chowdhry, 'Crisis of masculinity in Haryana: the unmarried, the unemployed and the aged,' Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 40, no. 49 (2005): 5189–198, p. 5193.

    [110] Chowdhry, 'Crisis of masculinity in Haryana,' p. 5192.

    [111] Chowdhry,' Crisis of masculinity in Haryana,' p. 5192.

    [112] Chowdhry, 'Crisis of masculinity in Haryana,' p. 5193.

    [113] Chowdhry, 'Crisis of masculinity in Haryana,' p. 5190.

    [114] Rajeshwari Sunder Rajan, Real and Imagined Women, London: Routledge, 1993, p. 6.

    [115] Nandita Sengupta, 'Marriage, murder, judgment, it was all wrong,' the Times of India, 4 April, 2010.

    [116] Interestingly, many retired police officials are members of the khap committees.

    [117] Soutik Biswas, 'A hideway for India's rebel couples,' BBC News, 30 July, 2012.

    [118] Bhupinder Singh Hooda, in Times Now TV, 24 March 2010.

    [119] Ahlawat, 'The political economy of Haryana's khaps,' p. 17.

    [120] 'Haryana: Backward commission okays reservation for Haryana Jats,' theTimes of India, 13 December 2012.

    [121] Dixit, 'A taliban of our very own.'

    [122] Sukhbir Siwach, 'DJ ban: "Youngsters drink and Misbehave,"' in the Times of India, 4 March 2007.

    [123] Ranjana Kumari, 'The rope runs out for khaps,' Tehelka Magazine, vol. 8, issue 18 (7 May 2011), online,, accessed 4 October, 2013.

    [124] Dixit, 'A taliban of our very own.'

    [125] Dixit, 'A taliban of our very own.'

    [126] Baba Suraj, in the Times of India, 18 January 2011.

    [127] D.R. Chaudhary, 'Bringing khaps to justice,' the Tribune, Chandigarh, 11 April 2010.


Published with the support of Gender and Cultural Studies, School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.
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