Before I Have a Last Laugh on the KHADC Amendment of Lineage Act

Before I have my last laugh on the contentious Khasi Hills Autonomous District (Khasi Social Custom of Lineage) (Second Amendment Bill) 2018 passed by the council on 25th July 2018 under the leadership of the present CEM Mr. H. S Shylla, Let me say a few words.  The amendment inserts a Section 3 (d) which reads

Any Khasi woman who marries a non-Khasi, as well as her offspring born out of such marriage, shall be deemed as non-Khasi who shall lose the Khasi status and all privileges and benefits as a member of the Khasi tribe who cannot claim preferential privileges under any law…

In short, henceforth if a Khasi woman marries a non-Khasi be it Indian, British, American or any other men apart from a Khasi man, she along with her children shall lose the status of being called a Khasi. Now who is basically a Khasi? As per definition of the principal Act namely The Khasi Hills Autonomous District (Khasi Social Custom of Lineage) Act 1997, a person born of a legal marriage read section 3 (a)

3(a) Whose parents are or were both Khasi, shall be a Khasi of the Kur, Jait or Clan of the mother, or

(b) whose mother is or was a Khasi and the father a non Khasi , shall be a Khasi of the Kur, Jait or Clan of the Khasi mother if and only if the person and his/ her Khasi mother fulfill the following requirements, namely:-

(i) they can speak Khasi, unless prevented from knowing the language by circumstances beyond their control.
(ii) they observed and are governed by Khasi matrilineal system of lineage, the Khasi laws of inheritance and succession and the Khasi laws of consanguinity and kinship.
(iii) had not, at any time, in writing or, otherwise voluntarily renounced the Khasi status.

Section 3(b)(ii) clearly upholds the traditional matrilineal system followed by the Khasi to define who a Khasi is. So a child who takes his/her mother’s surname is a Khasi by definition sans their father’s ethnicity/ identity. However post the amendment bill, just following the customary matrilineal system will not suffice to prove to be a Khasi; one’s patrilineal background shall also be scrutinized in order to be a Khasi. In principal, the added section 3(d) defeats section 3(b)(ii) which should have been omitted or rephrased. Well I’m not legally versed to comment much on the conflict of the above phrases; however as what I can understand the principal act accepts marriage between a Khasi woman and a non-Khasi man provided that their children take the mother’s surname. Well after this bill gets its assent they cannot, a clear bias to an unclear diktat by the members of the council representing the Khasi Tribe. What about the other two tribes following the same matrilineal system in Meghalaya the Jaintias & the Garos? Will the JHADC or GHADC follow suit? The CEM outrightly defends this move as a cause to protect the ‘Jaidbynriew’, a term dear to each one of us. Jaitbynriew in this context includes the Hynniewtrep people, the Khynriam, Pnar, Bhoi & War the inhabitants of the Khasi & Jaintia Hills. Will this amendment also apply to the areas beyond the KHADC to include the Jaidbynriew as a whole? Is the JHADC ready?

What concerns me most is the manner with which this bill was passed- in haste and without a thorough debate taking place on the floor of the house nor shared in the public domain to allow the general public at large to share their views and opinions. So is this bill gender biased?

In a recent SC ruling it has clearly directed that

Nobody has right to interfere if two adults get married

But here in the Khasi Hills after assent of the amendment bill a Khasi woman shall only marry a man from her tribe if her children are to be called Khasi, even though they may take her surname and follow the customary system. I personally find it too complicated to digest this amendment bill, not for the hate to my Jaidbynriew as many may think (on a social media page I was even asked if i am a khun shiphia as I am vocal against this) but for its inability to define who a real Khasi is. I stand confused on wither ways, like eating one’s own vomit.

The council is now hell bent to protect my Jaidbynriew from the claws of the ‘perpetrators’, this case a Khasi woman who by custom is the custodian of ‘ka kur ka jait especially in the case of a khatduh, the additional burden of inheriting ‘ka kyndew ka shyiap. They are infact gracefully put at the highest order in the society by custom and are disrespected disgracefully if married by their choice to a non Khasi, whereby her children shall lose status of being called a Khasi as per the bill. In short, this bill has to definitely go through thorough judicial scrutiny as it demeans the entire concept of a matrilineal system and is biased with the presence of ‘ka tang jait’ system for Khasi men marrying non Khasi women. To neutralize this partisan lawmaking, the so called time immemorial system of ‘ka tang kur’ prevalent only amongst the Khynriam needs also to be abolished.

And to end my observation I ask who is protecting and who is corrupting and confusing the Jaidbynriew? I leave it to the wisdom of all who read this to dwell upon. If by any chance political innings is sought by those who are misleading the Jaitbynriew, then surely we are sooner or later nothing but a lost race. A note to deeply introspect! I shall not clap my hands to something that is irrational, but hope that we shall overcome someday.

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Wankitbok Pohshna Written by:

By education B.Tech, by work formerly Editor & [email protected] Khasi Films presently managing partner at meghabazzar.com a startup e-commerce site and proprietor of estrellahome.in

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