Sunday, 14 May 2017

FB Discussions - Khap panchayat

15 May 2016 at 08:43 · 

To a post celebrating the end of khap panchayats -

Aparna Krishnan The State is the greatest violator and oppressor. I can only rejoice the day the State withers away and small communities come into their own strength and independence. Gram Swaraj. But that day they will be in charge of their own policies and production and justice also. So its all rather nuanced, and can only be understood by those rooted in the communities, and not by outsiders.

Every place may have a differnt storyline. Our village holds madhyasthams with elders of the village chairing. Over twenty years I have only seen two cases of unfair judgements. Overall is it fair and empathetic and intelligent. People clearly prefer the madhyasthams, to going to police and courts. In the local, many local realities are understood and addressed. I suspect adivasi local panchayats would be even more egalitarian and fair. Yes, the horrendous jugdements one hears of in media need to be done away with. But interestingly I asked a Jat friend if the khap panchayats were really that violative in her part of the country, and she said that there were more meaningful addressels than violative ones. 

The media and the intelligensia consider villages backward and stupid, and therefore the worst may be getting reported with glee has been my suspiscion. In that case, the worst need to be dealt with a iron hand on a case by case basis.
Devika Jayakumari Sorry to disagree with you on this, Aparna Krishnan . I don't think you can generalize from a couple of cases or hearsay. There is a mountain of evidence outside just press reports for caste repression in villages - in ethnography done over years, in the testimonies of lower caste people of their lives. The village is not an unchanging island; again, there is so much rigorous work by historians and anthropologists that confirm this. Khap panchayats have also not remained the same and there is excellent historical work on Haryana that shows how their present virulent misogyny took place. I truly appreciate your efforts to resist the egregious urban-fixation that is ruining this country, but I do hope that does not mean defending truly nefarious, inhuman and misogynistic practices that are very often part of rural life.
Aparna Krishnan All I am saying is that in our village madhyasthams function, and people largely approach this before approaching the State. they have only suspiscion towards the police and the courts.
Ananda Ganesh caste repressions ? the usual phrase colonized newspapers and the readers believe in without having any clue about jAti.
Sanjay Maharishi There was once talk here of banning the Khap panchayat. But if you think about it, it doesn't mean a thing. Khap is just a name. It is after all a panchayat and in that sense, what was being demanded was a banning of panchayat, which is like beating the already dying horse. Gruesome stories were being circulated of the panchayat's excesses - which I am not defending - but hardly a story in the media of the importance of the institution of panchayat in village life, the localisation of the justice machinery. It seems to me, we are always in search of the next villain. Who is it going to be next, on whom will we unload our righteous anger?
Aparna Krishnan In this social media day and age everyone has become a social reformer. But everyone wants to reform everyone else - and not ever have to look at themselves. Gandhi is passe.
Aparna Krishnan The village is looked down at by the activist (whatever that overused word means) and the mainstream, as backward and superstitious. Whayever story reinforces that image is lapped up.
Aparna Krishnan Nobody wants to see and reinforce the inherent strengths of a village, its roots and identities. They want to be the superior being, criticising them, and advising them, and sometimes fighting for them. After Gandhi, no one has essentially respected the villages and the villager.
Aparna Krishnan Why can the activists, usualy living in citiies, not simply clean up their cities - of the ulginess, overflowing landfills, rivers now sewers, obscene disparties ... rather than take om the mandate of reforming villages ! Nosey busybodies.
Sanjay Maharishi In fact, there can be a mohalla level panchayat in the city, like we now have clinics. Only the big cases could go to court. The local ones like land grab, domestic violence can be dealt with at mohalla level. The district level courts are already too big, over crowded, over worked and impersonal. The legal system itself is over worked with too much of centralisation. A lot can be solved at mohalla level.
Aparna Krishnan People today, activist or mainstream, are unable to see that common people have sense and sensitivity to handle their own issues. There will be some deviations as will anywhere - which need to be handles as deviations. You have incidentally made a case for local panchayats, and I too have. And that currently goes totally against the mainstream and alternative educated opinion !  
Raghunandan Tr Permit me to clear a bit of confusion that I think seems to exist. The word 'Panchayat' is used to describe many institutions, and thus, these institutions tend to get confused with each other. A khap is a traditional body. A nyaya Panchayat is a legal institution, which exists in 5 or 6 States, created through State law. A Gram Panchayat is a constitutionally mandated body that has several provisions for inclusion, such as reservations not only for elected seats, but for leadership positions as well. I am emphasising this because sometimes conversations are held where people have different institutions in mind, when using the term 'Panchayat'. I have long favoured the use of the term 'Grama Sarkara' (village government) to describe the Grama Panchayat, so that the actions of Khaps and Nyaya Panchayats, both good and bad, are not attributed to the local government.
Aparna Krishnan I meant the traditional panchayats, the 'khap panchayats' are they are termed in some places, and the madhyasthams with pinna peddas (village elders) in our place. I have found then sane and sensitive. Naren, our friend, universally respected in the panchayat made it a point to sit thro' every madhyastham (and they can drag on interminably) he was called to to stand by the process of local justice systems. Our village people prefer this as a first linem rather than police and courts which they find pointless and corrupt. Media does not talk about all this, but focusses on some vile khap judgements. So I suspect that the media is as usual seeking sensation over a balanced picture.
Raghunandan Tr Yeah. The media focuses on a few insane decisions and thereby undermines the value of traditional institutions. Khaps are judged by the worst of them, IAS officers are judged by the best of them. Sad. We came across terrible prejudice against the idea of Nyaya Panchayats, when we piloted the idea in the Ministry of Panchayati Raj. Ultimately, what sailed was the Ministry of Justice's plan for Gram Nyayalayas, which were not at the village level really, but extensions of the formal judicial system to the taluk level,
Aparna Krishnan Glad you agree. I value your opinions. There is such a blanket mindless opinion against the 'khap panchayat' today that to speak for sanity of traditional justice systems is to get abused by the activist and the mainstream ! The activists are getting rather mainstreamed !!
Raghunandan Tr There are many instances of Khaps having arranged for 100 percent immunisation, and total sanitation. That's not reported. Not sexy enough.
Aparna Krishnan i see ! I did not know this. Tired of a mindless media and a more mindless public that parrots the media. Sadly many of them decide policies.
Raghunandan Tr If you go to Switzerland, there is a clear distinction between the elected Panchayats, known as Communes and the traditional bodies, known as the 'Bourgeoisie!'

There is sometimes tension between them, because the latter usually comprises of the old land owners and the former may have some Johnny come lately types elected, but the latter are not banned.
Raghunandan Tr Madhu Kishwar has written some excellent stuff on Khaps, opposing the anti-Khap sentiment. I agree with her views, in this case.
Aparna Krishnan Our elite are more english than the english. and more mocking and dismissive of tradition than the english were. mores the pity. will look for kishwar's articles. she has many time brought out fairly sensible views counter to mainstream thought. if you have a link please pass it. i currently differ with her on many things, but thats beside the point !
Raghunandan Tr I think I have the email link. Regards Madhu, she is a good friend of mine, though her views of late have brought in a distance between the two of us. She has done wonderful work for the street vendors' rights in Delhi, braving physical threats and violence.
Aparna Krishnan we are all entitled to become a little cranky as years go by - so far as we have done some meaningful work earlier !
Sanjay Maharishi Thanks for the clarification. I do feel that panchayats have been successively undermined over the years because it would become too difficult otherwise to get large projects passed like big dams and mining etc. What a nightmare it would be to go take permission from every panchayat with some saying yes some no, some laying restrictions some conditions etc etc.
Aparna Krishnan The governments agenda is clear. When the concerned and unconcerned public also play the same tune of 'down with traditional systems' rooted in a deep disdain of villages and village strengths, and when this public includes the opinion forming intelligensia the tragedy gets compunded vastly. This is our colonial heritage. Only those who have actually engaged with villages closely, refusing the trap of preconceived ideologies, seem to be able to see more honestly, and accept the real strengths (and weaknesses) in villages. They are sadly too few.

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