MEGHALAYA: A NEW KHASI ‘LINEAGE’ BILL
A new Khasi ‘lineage’ bill aims to stop mixed marriages
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.
TRIBAL RHYTHMS KHADC chief H.S. Shylla