A new Khasi ‘lin­eage’ bill aims to stop mixed mar­riages

India Today - - STATES - By Kaushik Deka

Shylla even says the bill is a means to pro­tect “indige­nous peo­ple from AIDS”

It’s only been a month since he took charge, but H.S. Shylla, chief ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of the Khasi Hills Au­ton­o­mous Dis­trict Coun­cil (KHADC), is al­ready ready with a con­tro­ver­sial bill to “pro­tect the Khasi com­mu­nity from go­ing ex­tinct”. “Look at Tripura, once a tribal state. Where are the trib­als now? The As­samese have per­ished. The Mizo, the Naga, the Garo, the Khasi, we’ll have to pro­tect our­selves, oth­er­wise we’ll per­ish,” says the 64-year-leader of Megha­laya’s rul­ing Na­tional Peo­ple’s Party (NPP).

The KHADC re­cently adopted the Khasi So­cial Cus­tom of Lin­eage (Amend­ment) Bill, 2018, which states that Khasi women who marry out­siders will no longer en­joy Sched­uled Tribe sta­tus and the con­sti­tu­tional pro­tec­tions that come with it. Chil­dren from such unions will not be Khasi.

The Khasi, like the other two Megha­laya tribes— Garo and Jain­tia—fol­low a ma­tri­lin­eal sys­tem where chil­dren take their mother’s name and the youngest daugh­ter in­her­its the an­ces­tral prop­erty. Shylla says the amend­ment is to pro­tect the Khasi peo­ple from mis­use by out­siders. “It will stop mixed mar­riages, they are a threat to our tribe,” he says.

The amended bill is now await­ing the state gover­nor’s ap­proval. To garner sup­port, Shylla is pro­ject­ing it as a means “to pre­vent indige­nous peo­ple from be­com­ing vul­ner­a­ble to AIDS”. He cites a 2012 re­port by the Megha­laya AIDS Con­trol So­ci­ety stat­ing Megha­laya was vul­ner­a­ble. He even claims that some 20 women ex­pected to de­liver ba­bies by this Oc­to­ber are HIV-pos­i­tive in the state.

In­ter­est­ingly, the NPP has dis­tanced it­self from the KHADC leader’s re­marks. “These are his per­sonal com­ments. The party nei­ther has any­thing to do with these com­ments nor do they re­flect the party’s stand,” says Chief Min­is­ter Con­rad Sangma, who is also party pres­i­dent.

Civil so­ci­ety groups, too, have crit­i­cised the bill for be­ing “un­con­sti­tu­tional, pa­tri­ar­chal and misog­y­nis­tic”. Many are also ques­tion­ing Shylla’s con­cern since the KHADC chief is a Jain­tia him­self.


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