The Khap and Sarv Khap is a system of social administration.
The Indian social fabric was organized around the village unit, as civilization shifted from nomadic to settled agricultural practices. Throughout the last few millennia, the society of the Indian subcontinent was organized in various forms, such as tribal, village, monarchical or republican. The mode of governance was that of a council of five, which was called a Panchayat. We find that the republican form of society existed from the most ancient times known to us. In various times the society coalesced around monarchical forms, but the republican societies did not die out. References to the republican sources can be found in ancient literature, some of the most ancient as being the Rig Veda (circa 1500 BCE). The forms of governing society are that of the Sabha (Hindi: सभा) or samiti (Hindi: समिति), which mean "gathering" and "assembly", respectively. The Sabhapati, the president of the Sabha, 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.
In the texts of Pāṇini and later Buddhist texts, references to 16 republics or Great Republics Janapadas can be found, with these references dating back to around 600 BCE (conventional dating). References to names of republics such as Mall, Licchavi, Sakya, Yaudheya, Agreya, and so on are made. Indian and Western sources referring to these republics e.g. in the invasion of Alexander (circa 325 BCE) where Alexander comes wars with the Malloi or Malli, Kshudrak, Paur, Puru, and Kathi republics, can also be found. The republics referred to as the Yaudheyas, Malls etc. are documented as dominating the Northern Indian landscape in what is now Punjab, Sindh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
The Sarv Khap (or all Khap) Panchayat (council) represented all the Khaps. The individual Khaps would elect leaders who would send delegates, who would represent the Khaps at the Sarv Khap level. 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 there a similar system of governance, and their coins and seals are found in this whole region, Rohtak Haryana was one of the capitals and a major coin mint.
After the fall of Kushan Empire northwest India was divided into small republics. These small republics could not defend against invaders. So there were formed federations of republics known as Ganasanghas. One such Ganasangha was on the banks of Sutlej River. Another Gansangha of Arjunayana was in the region between Agra and Bharatpur. Dr Budh Prakash says that the Yaudheyas are related with 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). Decisions were 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.
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.
- Kaur, Ravinder (2010-06-05). "Khap panchayats, sex ratio and female agency | Ravinder Kaur". Academia.edu. Retrieved 2013-03-31.
- J.P. Sharma, Republics in Ancient India, 1968, Leiden
- Muhlberger, Steve. "Democracy in Ancient India".
- Bibliography, Yuadheyoun ka Ithihasa
- Dr Natthan Singh, Jat-Itihas, (Jat History), Jat Samaj Kalyan Parishad, F-13, Dr Rajendra Prasad Colony, Tansen marg, Gwalior, M.P, India 474 002 2004
- Dr. Bal Kishan Dabas, The Political and Social History of the Jats, 2001 Sanjay Prakashan, New Delhi, ISBN 81-7453-045-2 Meeting held under the chairmanship of Sant Shanta Nand, the account recorded by Ramdas, the Recorder (Bhat) of the Panchayat Source: Shoram collection, Pothi No.1, P.7, quoted in note 33, of The Political and Social History of the Jats, Dr. Bal Kishan Dabas
- T.K. Rajalakshmi. "Caste terror". frontline Volume 21 - Issue 25, Dec. 04 - 17, 2004.
- Rohit Mullick & Neelam Raaj (9 September 2007). "Panchayats turn into kangaroo courts". The Times of India.
- Venkatesan, J. (20 April 2011). "Stamp out khap panchayats: court". The Hindu (Chennai, India).
- J. Venkatesan (20 April 2011). "Stamp out khap panchayats: court". The Hindu - Issue New Delhi, April 20, 2011 (Chennai, India).
- "Rein in khaps, prevent honour killings: SC panel". 17 July 2012.
- Official website (in Hindi)