A Khap is a community organisation representing a clan or a group of North Indian castes or clans.[1] They are found mostly in northern India, particularly among the village people of Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh, especially Jats and Tyagi. But also amongst states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh[2] although historically the term has also been used among other communities. A Khap Panchayat is an assembly of Khap elders, and a Sarv Khap is an assembly of many Khap Panchayats.[3][4]

Khaps are not affiliated with the formally elected government bodies and are instead concerned with the affairs of the Khap it represents.[5] It is not affiliated with the democratically elected local assemblies that are also termed Panchayat. A Khap Panchayat has no official government recognition or authority but can exert significant social influence within the community it represents.[6] The Baliyan Khap of Jats as led by Mahendra Singh Tikait until 2011 is one that has gained particular media attention.[7] Dahiya Khap is major khap of Jat community in Haryana.[8][9]



The Khaps evolved as tribal and village administrations. One of the terms used to denote the republic[clarification needed] was the Khap. Others were Pal, Janapada, and Gaṇasaṅgha.

Dahiya Khap is one of the oldest leading Khap of Jats.[10][11]

Khaps have been dated back to the 14th or 15th century, as part of the social structure of the Hindu people, who lived in the region that is now north eastern Rajasthan, eastern Haryana, and Western Uttar Pradesh.[12] The Jats were originally pastoral, but settled down and became agricultural.[12]

There are historical documentational evidences that reveal the organization of Meerut division's khaps into the sarvkhap panchayat as far back as the 13th century. Haryana Sarwakhap Panchayat was established in 664 A.D.[13] There is also a native belief that claims that King Harshavardhan systematized the sarv–khap panchayat in the 7th century at Prayag (modern Prayagraj) during his quinquennial assemblage.[14]

During British colonial rule, influential khap members were chosen as officials for their local areas.[15]



The Khap consisted of a unit of 84 villages. The individual villages were governed by an elected council, known as the panchayat. A unit of seven villages was called a Thamba and 12 Thambas formed the Khap 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.[citation needed] 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 organisation, composed of all the clans, communities, and castes in the region.[citation needed]

Members of khap panchayats are all male, though they often make decisions affecting women. In Haryana, women are not allowed to be present at a panchayat and are represented by their male relatives.[16] Members of Sarva Jaateeya Venain Khap, one of the largest khap panchayats in Haryana, have instead said there are no female khap members because they feel uncomfortable attending, not because they are not allowed.[17]

Decisions on social issues


The Khap Panchayats frequently make pronouncements on social issues, such as abortion, alcohol abuse, dowry, and to promote education,[18] specially among girls.[19] In October 2012, one Khap Panchayat leader in Haryana blamed the eating of chow mein, a non-traditional food, for the rise in rape in India, while another suggested that the age of marriage should be dropped from 18 to 16 because being married would make young women less susceptible to rape.[20][21]

Khaps have attracted attention in recent times for their decisions on marriage.[15] Khaps have opposed marriages between members of different castes, of certain gotras from which intermarriage is prohibited, and of the same village.[6] In July 2000, a panchayat nullified the marriage of Ashish and Darshana, two years after they had married and produced a son, on the basis that they were from two gotras (clans) prohibited to marry, and should have a brother-sister relationship.[16] Punishments handed down by khap panchayats in marriage cases include fines, social ostracism, public humiliation, and expulsion from the village.[6][22]

Due to cultural restrictions around marriage and the skewed sex ratio, families may have difficulty finding suitable brides and occasionally go against gotra marriage prohibitions.[6] There are also cases of men in Haryana who marry lower caste brides without having a khap panchayat be called.[15]

Naresh Tikait, head of Bhalyan Khap, criticized love marriages, saying "Marriage is a union of two consenting families and not just two individuals. So all stakeholders should have a say in that. If parents take all the pains to educate their girls then they also have right over their marriages too."[23]

The largest Khap in Haryana is the Satrol Khap, which allowed inter-caste marriage in 2014,[24] providing the marriage is not within the same gotra, village, or neighbouring villages.[25]

A 2015 Sarv Khap meeting launched a "Save Daughters, Educate Daughter" movement.[26]

The decisions of the patriarchal Khap Panchayats have often been associated with the practice of honour killing.[27] In 2007, a khap panchayat ordered the killing of Manoj and Babli, who married within the same gotra. The two were killed by members of Babli’s family.

Death Sentence in Honour killing: In State Of Haryana v. Ganga Raj[28]- Delivered on 23 March 2010 in the Manoj Babli Honor Killing case, the sessions Judge Vani Gopal Sharma of Karnal district in Haryana has awarded capital punishment under Section 302 IPC (Indian Penal Code) 1860 to five family members of Babli including her brother Suresh, Uncles Rejender, Baru Ram and cousins Satish and Gurdev for killing the couple on 15 June 2007, considering it the "rarest of rare" case and life sentence to the khap (caste panchayat) leader Ganga Raj under Section 302 IPC read with section 120B, IPC for hatching the conspiracy to kill the couple.[29][circular reference][30]



In recent times, the Khap system has attracted criticism from groups, citing the stark prejudice that such groups allegedly hold against others. The All India Democratic Women's Association (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.[31][32]

The Supreme Court of India has declared Khap Panchayats to be illegal because they 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.[33]

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.[33]

In a 2012 report to the Supreme Court, Raju Ramachandran, a Senior Advocate appointed by the Court to assist it in public interest litigation actions against Khap Panchayats, called for the arrest of "self-styled" decision makers and for proactive action by the police to protect the fundamental rights of the people. He also asked for the recommendations to be converted into directions applicable to all states and union territories of India until a law is enacted by the federal parliament.[34]

Power and influence


Despite the criticisms against this institution, it remains popular in some parts of India because, in its benign form, it resolves disputes and achieves social order with less time and resources, compared to the court system which is lengthier and expensive.[15] In addition, taking a case to court may result in community ire.[16]

Sometimes, the Indian government avoids a direct confrontation with the panchayat especially in rural areas.[35] In some cases in Haryana, the police and locally elected leaders have supported the decisions of the khap panchayat.[16] Om Prakash Chautala, the former Chief Minister of Haryana, said in 2004 that "whatever the panchayat decides is right."[16]

Om Prakash Dhankar, member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said that khap panchayats "are a deciding factor in the electoral success of a candidate."[36]

Unofficial caste


There are sources that describe the Khap as an unofficial caste system where the panchayat dominates all other members of the group.[37] Like the function of traditional caste and family systems, this Indian traditional institution engages in dispute resolution and the regulation of members' behaviour.[35] The group uses violence to maintain a rigid structure that controls members particularly, women, Dalits, and youths. The panchayats aggressively push tradition and outlook in which caste divisions are desirable while violence towards lower castes is normal and acceptable.[37] An important Khap ethos involves the commitment – for the good of the community – to work with one's body, heart and soul under the leadership of its leaders, who are believed to have high moral superiority.[38] For this reason, these leaders are afforded the right to demand a member's life.

See also



  1. ^ Hindustan Times
  2. ^ क्या है खाप पंचायत, क्यों है उसका दबदबा?, Atul Sagar, BBC 5 August 2009
  3. ^ Saini, Manveer (21 April 2014). "Haryana's biggest khap panchayat scripts history, allows inter-caste marriages". The Times of India.
  4. ^ Pradhan, M. C. (18 December 1965). "The Jats of Northern India Their Traditional Political System – II" (PDF). Economic and Political Weekly.
  5. ^ खाप पंचायतों का हृदय परिवर्तन! अंजलि सिन्हा, Sahara Samay, 26 Apr 2014 samaylive.com.
  6. ^ a b c d Kaur, Ravinder (5 June 2010). "Khap panchayats, sex ratio and female agency | Ravinder Kaur". Academia.edu. Retrieved 31 March 2013.
  7. ^ "Muzaffarnagar riots: A Jat family protected 70 Muslims in Fugna village". India Today. 14 September 2013.
  8. ^ Deswal, Deepender (7 March 2011). "Haryana's Dahiya khap, a body representing people of Jat community in Sonipat district, is organising a meeting to mark centenary celebrations in Sisana village on Monday". The Times of India. Retrieved 5 June 2021.
  9. ^ "चौटाला परिवार को जोड़ने में दो खेमों में बटी दहिया खाप". Dainik Bhaskar (in Hindi). 4 September 2019. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  10. ^ VIJENDER KUMAR (9 October 2022). "Rival Faction Of Khaps Hold Mahapanchayat In Jind | Chandigarh News - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 12 November 2022.
  11. ^ https://www.bhaskar.com/amp/news/haryana-news-dahiya-khap-distributed-ration-in-40-villages-075504-6981062.html. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ a b Thakur, Ratika; Sinha, A. K.; Pathak, R.K. (2015). "Khap Panchayats in Transition with Contemporary Times: An Anthropological Evaluation." Panjab University.
  13. ^ "हरियाणा सर्वखाप पंचायत". Jat Nayak (in Hindi). 16 March 2019. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  14. ^ Pradhan, M. C. (11 December 1965). "The Jats of Northern India: Their Traditional Political System" (PDF). Economic and Political Weekly. Retrieved 1 August 2020. The sarv–khap Panchayat, according to local belief, was organized in 7th century by emperor Harsha in his lust [sic] quinquennial assembly at Prayag (modern Allahabad.). But from the written historical records it is evident that the various khaps of Meerut Division were organized into the sarvkhap Panchayat as early as 13th century.
  15. ^ a b c d Kumar, Ajay (28 January 2012). "Khap Panchayats: A Socio-Historical Overview". Economic and Political Weekly. 47 (4): 59–64. JSTOR 41419766.
  16. ^ a b c d e Chowdhry, Prem (2004). "Caste panchayats and the policing of marriage in Haryana: Enforcing kinship and territorial exogamy". Contributions to Indian Sociology. 38 (1–2): 1–42. doi:10.1177/006996670403800102. S2CID 144104737.
  17. ^ "In rural Haryana women blamed for rape where men make the rules." The New York Times. 12 October 2012.
  18. ^ Bajwa, Harpreet (16 August 2015). "Khap Panchayats Root for Educated Leaders". New Indian Express. Archived from the original on 21 August 2015.
  19. ^ Siwach, Sukhbir (13 June 2014). "Haryana khaps launch campaign for girls' education".
  20. ^ Saini, Manveer (16 October 2012). "Haryana khap blames consumption of chowmein for rapes". The Times of India. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  21. ^ "Khap duo: Marry at 16 to check rape". The Telegraph. Calcutta. 8 October 2012. Archived from the original on 18 September 2016. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  22. ^ Yadav, Bhupendra (26 December 2009). "Khap Panchayats: Stealing freedom?" Economic and Political Weekly.
  23. ^ 5. Rai, Sandeep (23 November 2019). "Love marriages not acceptable, we won't allow them: Balyan khap leader". Times of India.
  24. ^ Saini, Manvir (11 April 2014). "Haryana's Biggest Khap Creates history". The Times of India.
  25. ^ "खाप पंचायत का ऐतिहासिक फैसला, अंतर्जातीय शादी को दी हरी झंडी". Zee News. 21 April 2014. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  26. ^ बेटी बचाओ, बेटी पढ़ाओ मुद्दे पर सर्वखाप महापंचायत, May – 17 – 2015
  27. ^ Ellis, Desmond; Stuckless, Noreen; Smith, Carrie (2015). Marital Separation and Lethal Domestic Violence. Routledge. p. 77. ISBN 978-1-31752-213-3.
  28. ^ State Of Haryana v. Ganga Raj,Times Of India, 26 March 2010,p. 8,
  29. ^ Manoj–Babli honour killing case
  30. ^ Singh, Gajinder (31 March 2010). "Death for honour killings". Calcutta, India: The Telegraph. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  31. ^ T.K. Rajalakshmi (17 December 2004). "Caste terror". frontline. Archived from the original on 16 October 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  32. ^ Rohit Mullick & Neelam Raaj (9 September 2007). "Panchayats turn into kangaroo courts". The Times of India.
  33. ^ a b Venkatesan, J. (20 April 2011). "Stamp out khap panchayats: court". The Hindu. Chennai, India.
  34. ^ "Rein in khaps, prevent honour killings: SC panel". 17 July 2012. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012.
  35. ^ a b Kannabiran, Kalpana; Singh, Ranbir (2008). Challenging The Rules(s) of Law: Colonialism, Criminology and Human Rights in India. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications. p. 331. ISBN 9780761936657.
  36. ^ "Panchayats under the shadow of the khaps." Livemint. 1 May 2013.
  37. ^ a b David, Hilda; Jarman, Francis (2017). India Diversity. Om Books International. p. 1959. ISBN 9789386316974.
  38. ^ Visvanathan, Susan (2013). Readings in Indian Sociology: Volume IX: Culture and Society. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications. p. 170. ISBN 9788132113904.

Further reading