Khap is a clan or a group of related clan, mainly among the Jats of Western UP and Haryana.,  although historically the term has been used among other communities also . A Khap Panchayat is an assembly of Khap elders. A Sarv Khap (literally all Khaps) meeting involves an assembly of many Khaps. A Khap is a community organization unaffiliated with the formally elected government bodies. A Khap Panchayat is concerned with the affairs of the Khap it represents. It is not affiliated with the democratically elected local assemblies that are also termed Panchayat. A Khap panchayat has not official government recogition or authority, but can exert significant social influence withing the community they represent. Baliyan Khap, famous by the panchayats lead late farmer leader Mahendra Singh Tikait, is among the most influential Khaps.
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 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.
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. 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 reported 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.
- क्या है खाप पंचायत, क्यों है उसका दबदबा?, Atul Sagar, BBC 5 August 2009
- Identifying The Centripetal And Centrifugal Forces Through Khap Panchayats In Haryana-An Analysis Satpal Singh, Dalbir Singh, IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science (IOSR-JHSS) Volume 16, Issue 4 (Sep. - Oct. 2013), PP 109-116
- अब उतपति श्रावकनु के, षांप गोत की जेम |
भई सु पोथिनु देषि करि, वरनन है कवि तेम ||६८२||
आगैं तो श्रावक सवै, एकमेक ही होत |
लगे चलन विपरीति तव, थापे षांप अरु गोत ||६८३||
थपी वहैतरि षांप ऐ, गांम नगर के नांम |
जैसैं पोथनु मैं लषी, सो वरनी अभिराम ||६८४||
Describes the 84 Jain communities, Buddhi-Vilas, Bakhtaram Sah, Samvat 1827, (1770 AD)
- Haryana’s biggest khap panchayat scripts history, allows inter-caste marriages, Manveer Saini,TNN | Apr 21, 2014,
- The Jats of Northern India Their Traditional Political System—II, M C Pradhan, Economic and Political Weekly, December 18, 1965
- खाप पंचायतों का हृदय परिवर्तन! अंजलि सिन्हा, Sahara Samay, 26 Apr 2014
- Kaur, Ravinder (2010-06-05). "Khap panchayats, sex ratio and female agency | Ravinder Kaur". Academia.edu. Retrieved 2013-03-31.
- Muzaffarnagar riots: A Jat family protected 70 Muslims in Fugna village, India Today, September 14, 2013
- J.P. Sharma, Republics in Ancient India, 1968, Leiden
- Muhlberger, Steve. "Democracy in Ancient India".
- Shraddha Suresh. "Khap Panchayat - Killing in the name of Honour". The Views Paper.
- 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
- Manvir Saini (11 April 2014). "Haryana's Biggest Khap Creates history". The Times of India.
- बेटी बचाओ, बेटी पढ़ाओ मुद्दे पर सर्वखाप महापंचायत, May - 17 - 2015
- 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)