The Khap and Sarv Khap is a system of social administration.
In the last few millennia, society in the Indian subcontinent was organized in various forms, such as tribal, village, monarchical or republican. As civilization shifted from nomadic to settled agricultural practices, society organized around the village. The government was a council of five people, and was called a Panchayat. Republican government existed from the earliest known time. Although society coalesced around monarchy in various times, the republican societies continued to exist. References to the republican sources exist in ancient literature, such as the Rig Veda (circa 1500 BCE).
The texts by Pāṇini and later Buddhist texts, refer to 16 Great Republics, or Janapadas, such as named Mall, Licchavi, Sakya, Yaudheya, Agreya, around 600 BCE (conventional dating). Other Indian and Western sources refer to these republics: Alexander (circa 325 BCE) wars with the Malloi or Malli, Kshudrak, Paur, Puru, and Kathi republics. The republics of Yaudheyas, Malls an so on are documented as dominating the Northern Indian region in what is now Punjab, Sindh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
The institutions of government were the Sabha (सभा) or samiti (समिति), which mean "gathering" and "assembly", respectively. The president of the Sabha was called the Sabhapati, and was an elected official. The term 'Rajan, Rajanaya' has been taken to denote a monarchical system. This term was also used at that time for the head of the household, who would participate in the 'Sabha' (assembly). In later times, this took on a monarchical connotation.
The Sarv Khap (or All Khap) Panchayat (Council) represented all the Khaps. The individual Khaps would elect leaders who would send delegates to represent their Khaps at the Sarv Khap. It was a political organization, composed of all the clans, communities, and castes in the region. The republics of the Yaudheyas who dominated this region from 600 BCE to 400 CE preceded it. They had a similar system of governance, and their coins and seals are found throughout the region. Rohtak, Haryana was a capital and a major coin mint.
After the fall of Kushan Empire, northwest India was divided into small republics that later formed federations known as Ganasanghas. One Ganasangha was on the banks of Sutlej River. Another Gansangha of Arjunayana was in the region between Agra and Bharatpur. Dr Budh Prakash states that the Yaudheyas are related to the present Dahiya clan and Arjunayana Ganasanghas were the present Joon clans.
Decisions were made under the aegis of a Council of five elected members (Panchayat) by consensus. In time of danger, outside invasion, or other kinds of crises, the whole clan rallied under the banner of the Panchayat. A leader would be chosen by the Assembly.
A number of villages grouped themselves into a Guhaand. A number of Guhaands formed a 'Khap' (covering an area equal to from a Tehsil to a District) and a number of Khaps formed a 'Sarva Khap' embracing a full province or state. For example, there was a "Sarva Khap" each for Haryana and Malwa. At what level a Panchayat should gather depended upon the magnitude of the problem and the territory it involved.
One of the terms used to denote the republic was the 'Khap'. Others were Pal, Janapada, and Ganasangha etc. The Khap consisted a unit of 84 villages. The individual villages were governed by an elected Council, which was known as the Panchayat. A unit of seven villages was called a Thamba and 12 Thambas would form the unit of 84 villages, though Khaps of 12 and 24 villages existed. Their elected leaders would determine which units would be represented at the Khap level. These Khaps are found to be spread all the way from Northwest India down to Madhya Pradesh, Malwa, Rajasthan, Sindh, Multan, Punjab, Haryana, and modern Uttar Pradesh.
Sarv Khap of Haryana
The region from Western Uttar Pradesh through Agra, Mathura, to the Sutlej River in the Punjab was known as Haryana, dominated by Jats and Gurjars. The influence of the Sarv Khap extended to the Malwa province in Central India, Rajasthan and Sindh. Its boundaries also varied widely throughout history.
The largest Khap in Haryana is the Satrol Khap, which allowed inter-caste marriage in 2014.
In recent times, the Khap system has attracted criticism from groups, citing the stark prejudice that such groups allegedly hold against others. Women's Organisation AIDWA has made allegations, in some cases where the Khaps are alleged to have initiated threats of murder and violence to couples who marry outside of the circle.
The Supreme Court has declared illegal 'Khap panchayats' which often decree or encourage honour killings or other institutionalised atrocities against boys and girls of different castes and religions who wish to get married or have married.
This is wholly illegal and has to be ruthlessly stamped out. There is nothing honourable in honour killing or other atrocities and, in fact, it is nothing but barbaric and shameful murder. Other atrocities in respect of the personal lives of people committed by brutal, feudal-minded persons deserve harsh punishment. Only this way can we stamp out such acts of barbarism and feudal mentality. Moreover, these acts take the law into their own hands, and amount to kangaroo courts, which are wholly illegal.—Bench of Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra.
In his report to the Supreme Court Raju Ramachandaran, Senior Advocate appointed by the Court to assist it in PILs against Khap Panchayats has called for arrest of "self styled" decision makers and proactive action by the police to protect the fundamental rights of the people. It also asked for the recommendations being converted as directions to all States and the Union, till a law is enacted by the Parliament. These Khap panchayats are widely regarded as a system responsible for committing evil crimes and imposing atrocious rules on people.
Rohtak, January 13 Khap panchayats in Haryana were not involved in any honour killing cases in the past decade, as per details provided by the state government.
This was stated by local resident Suresh Deswal, who had sought details of cases of honour killing from the government registered by the police between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2011, and the role of any khap panchayat or their representative.
“The information has been supplied by the 23 district police chiefs,” said Deswal, who had sought information about honour killings after such bodies were blamed by certain sections of society and reports published or aired in a section of the media in the past several years.
Of late, there has been a campaign against khap panchayats over honour killings and these were declared ‘guilty’ without ever hearing them. The summoning of the khaps by the Supreme Court for their reply over the allegations levelled against them and the information provided by the police could be instrumental in understanding the problem before coming to any conclusion.
Describing the description of khaps as ‘Tuglaki’ or Taliban as unfortunate, he said it appeared that a one-sided campaign had been on and unsuspecting people in general were made to believe a lopsided view so far.
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- Shraddha Suresh. "Khap Panchayat - Killing in the name of Honour". The Views Paper.
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- Official website (in Hindi)