Meghalaya tribal lineage bill turns heat on children of mixed marriages

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Guwahati, August 2: The Meghalaya State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) has asked the State police’s cybercrime cell to take action against people who target children of mixed marriages in the wake of a lineage bill that seeks to prevent Khasi tribal women from marrying men of non-Khasi communities.
“I have written to the cell’s special superintendent of police pointing out that certain individuals and or groups have resorted to defaming minors of mixed marriages. The commission has taken exception to hate messages and trolling of such children,” MSCPCR chairperson Meena Kharkongor told The Hindu from State capital Shillong on August 2.
The commission, which had taken cognisance of such cases, asked the police to ensure punitive steps taken act as a deterrent for others.
The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) had on July 25 approved a social custom bill, which if approved by the State Governor, will strip a Khasi-woman of her Scheduled Tribe status and associated privileges if she marries a non-Khasi man. The bill also seeks to mark the children of such women as non-Khasis and thus ineligible for land and other rights.
The three principal tribes of Meghalaya — Khasi, Garo and Jaintia — are matrilineal. But local governance follows a patriarchal system, and men calling the shots politically have often objected to women marrying outside the tribe, specifically non-tribal people, allegedly letting them gain control of land and other resources by default.
KHADC Chief Executive Member H.S. Shylla justified the approval of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District (Khasi Social Custom of Lineage) (Second Amendment) Bill, 2018 that was passed a day after notification on July 31.
“We have seen a silent invasion (of non-tribal people) because of mixed marriages and inadequate laws to protect the indigenous people from the immigration crisis that poses a danger to the minority Khasi community,” Mr. Shylla said. He, however, said he was not against any woman choosing who to love or marry.
The amendment bill would also apply to a Khasi woman who marries a man from any other tribe besides non-tribal communities.
Mr. Shylla also batted for the codification of Khasi customary laws for better implementation of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District (Khasi Social Custom of Lineage) Act of 1997.
Controversial bill
Legal experts in Meghalaya capital Shillong said the amendment bill approved by KHADC might not stand if challenged in the court. They also referred to a Supreme Court judgement in March this year, which said choosing a life partner, is a fundamental right and consent of family, community or clan is not necessary for marriage between two adults.
Women activists have panned it as an unconstitutional move aimed at keeping the mind and body of a woman in chains. “Our men have allowed outsiders to loot and encroach upon our lands. Now they are talking about safeguarding their women by stopping them from marrying a non-tribal,” said Jaynie N. Sangma, an activist based in the State’s Garo hills.
“These so-called tribal protectors who have destroyed forests and the land through corrupt practices are now targeting women as if their marriage to non-tribals will make the tribals extinct,” said Agnes Kharshiing of Civil Society Women’s Organisation.
Theilin Phanbuh, chairperson of the Meghalaya State Commission for Women said the panel would study the amendment bill before issuing a statement.
The KHADC, however, said it could also bring Khasi men within the ambit of the bill to prevent them from marrying non-Khasi women.
(Courtesy: The Hindu)