Sonepat, Haryana: A Jat Mahapanchayat attended by several Khaps brushed aside the idea of a Khap leader that marriageable age of girls should be brought down to 16 years, saying the suggestion was "individual in nature".
However, the Mahapanchayat, which debated the issue in details, did not pass any final decision on the matter.
Santosh Dahiya, president of women wing of Khap panchayat, who was among others to address the gathering, later told reporters that "the Mahapanchayat did not back the views of a Khap leader. It was felt that suggestion was individual in nature. However, the Mahapanchayat itself did not pass any final decision on the matter".
The Khap representatives also criticised the media "for targeting" them "for no fault" of theirs and explained the decisions taken in the Khap panchayats or caste councils were not individual decision, "but collective in the interest of the families and society."
The Mahapanchayat representatives saw relation between the rise in crime against women, especially rapes, to the "obscene content being broadcast by television and published in various magazine and media".
"The media should understand that the role of Khap Panchayats are to preserve the culture, traditions and promote brotherhood in society," a Khap member said.
A number of the Khap representatives criticised the state government for allegedly not doing enough to push reform suggested by Khap panchayat in Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
They suggested that if such reforms were incorporated in the Hindu Marriage Act, then number of rapes would definitely be checked.
While debating on rape cases, the representatives said that these cases were happening with the girls of every caste and to discuss on this issue, a separate meeting Sarv Jatiya Sarv Khap Mahapanchayat would be convened.
Nafe Singh Nain, president of Sarv Khap Mahapanchayat presided over the Mahapanchayat.
Dahiya said that the Mahapanchayat decided to form awareness cells, comprising of 3 to 4 people in each groups, to launch an awareness campaign in rural areas of the state to educate the people including young boys and girls in a bid to help curb incidents of crimes against women.
"The Mahapanchayat took note of rising incidents of crime against women including many rape incidents of rape in Haryana during the past two months and strongly condemned such incidents," said Sube Singh.
Earlier, Congress President Sonia Gandhi had dismissed the Khap Panchayat leader's suggestion, saying "We have a democratic system here, we have an independent judiciary...law is in the hands of judiciary, nobody else".
On Sonia's comment, Dahiya said, "Our existence cannot be ignored. Khaps have been there since ages. They are part of our social system and have been in existence even before civil law was there."
Dahiya said that the Mahapanchayat also strongly condemned the statement of Haryana Congress leader Dharambir Goyat, who on Thursday claimed that 90 percent of the cases of rapes involved "consensual sex".
"We have demanded that Goyat should apologise for his shameful comment. He should seek apology from all women for what he has said," Dahiya said.
The demand for reservation for Jats in government jobs was another topic of debate in the Mahapanchayat and it was decided to convene a meeting of all the Jat Khaps on October 19 at Jind to deliberate on the issue.
Representatives of the Jat Arakshan Sangharsh Samitis would also be invited to participate in the Jind Mahapanchayat.
Meanwhile, speaking at Kaithal today, Haryana Industries Minister, Randeep Singh Surjewala said that former Chief Minister Om Parkash Chautala "should seek apology from women of entire country for his statement regarding the marriage of girls at a younger age".
Although Chautala had clarified on his remarks made earlier this week, Surjewala said "after making such a
statement, (INLD President) Chautala has lost the moral right to retain the position of an Opposition Leader."
"Chautala's statements regarding the marriage of girls at a tender age of 15 years exhibit his Talibani mentality," Surjewala claimed.
He said that concerted efforts are being made by the state government to effectively check crime against women.
"Apart from setting up a helpline facility for women, decision has also been taken to constitute special cells for women in the State where women DSPs would be deployed who would ensure effective investigation and prosecution of such cases," he said.