Meghalaya | Khasi woman marrying outside tribe to be stripped of ST status, benefits

Meghalaya | Khasi woman marrying outside tribe to be stripped of ST status, benefits

TNT News | SHILLONG, July 26, 2018

The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) has given its approval on a social custom bill that will strip a Khasi woman of her ST status and all privileges associated with it if she marries a non-Khasi.

The Bill called the Khasi Hills Autonomous District (Khasi Social Custom of Lineage) (Second amendment) Bill, 2018, was notified on Tuesday and passed on Wednesday.

According to the Bill, the woman's children will also be deemed as non-Khasis. The bill also applies to a Khasi woman who marries a man from any other tribe and not just non-tribals.

Section 3 of the act has been amended and a new sub-section 3 (d) has been inserted which states, "Any Khasi woman who marries a non-Khasi as well as her offspring(s) born out of such marriage(s) shall be deemed as non-Khasi who shall lose the Khasi status and all the privileges and benefits as a member of the Khasi tribe who cannot claim preferential privileges under any law."

A new sub-section (r) has also been inserted in Section 2 of the principal act which states, "Non-Khasi means a person not belonging to indigenous Khasi tribe classified as Scheduled Tribe under the Constitution (ST) Order, 1950 (Part III- Rules and Orders under the Constitution) Part XI-Meghalaya."

KHADC chief executive member HS Shylla, referred to the immigration crisis and such mixed marriages stating, "Here, we see what we call the silent invasion."

Having said this, Shylla maintained that he was not against love relationships or marriages as "it is a personal choice".

Shylla suggested that the bill should be passed on the same day that it was introduced. Consequently, Chairman Teinwell Dkhar asked the members for approval, to which all the MDCs present gave their nod unanimously.

A meeting to expedite the assent of the bill between the chief minister, the governor and the delegation of MDCs have been scheduled for Friday.

"If there is a need (we) will call a special session," Shylla told reporters.

Citing the misuse of the Khasi Social Custom of Lineage for Khasi constitutional benefits by a number of people, the CEM said, "It is, therefore expedient to provide a law for strictly following the prevailing Khasi Social Custom of Lineage to keep and preserve the traditional matrilineal system of society of the Khasis and for the protection of their interest."

"There is an urgent need to further strengthen the Khasi Social Custom of Lineage by way of codification of Khasi Customary Laws for better implementation of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District (Khasi Social Custom of Lineage), Act, 1997," he added.

According to Shylla, the fact that land can be transferred indirectly to non-tribals through marriage to Khasi women is troublesome. Laws such as the Trading by Non-Tribals Regulation Act, the Meghalaya (Benami Transactions Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, the Meghalaya Transfer of Land (Regulation) are not capable of protecting the interests of the indigenous people, he added.

Many MDCs supported the bill with People's Democratic Front (PDF) MDC Grace Mary Kharpuri agreeing that mixed marriages pose a danger to the Khasi community.

PDF MDC Hadrian Lyngdoh even suggested that a better option for the Khasis would be an arranged marriage.

Shylla, however, clarified that the Bill will not apply to mixed marriages which existed before the Bill saying, "It will be implemented from the day the Governor gives his assent to the Bill and after it is published in the Meghalaya Gazette."

Shylla added, "A time will come when we will have to do the same with Khasi men and not just women."

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