By Agnes Kharshiing
The debate that has arisen out of a hurriedly passed bill ‘the Khasi Hills Autonomous District (Khasi Social Custom of Lineage) (Second Amendment Act 2018 has literally divided the ‘Khasi’ Community.
It is very frightening to see what one bill can do to a society and its customs, especially when it has not been discussed or put in public Domain. In a Democracy everyone should have a right to discuss, dissent, assent, proving it to be socially equitable, especially in a progressive State like ours.
But when something is passed in a hurry it sure is debatable and cannot be allowed in a Democracy like ours and the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) cannot say it is not under the Constitution of India when it is given birth through the sixth Schedule, and bound by the Constitution to protect the Fundamental Rights of an individual.
The KHADC claims to protect the ‘Jaitbynriew’ (Community) but has not been able to protect the land from being alienated, the forest from being destroyed , the resources from being exploited, the poor from poverty and has helped in destruction of environment instead.
Privileges enjoyed by a Khasi Woman, eligible to her as a member of the Scheduled Tribe, are wiped off with one stroke of a pen and the right enshrined by the Constitution Scheduled Tribe Order 1950 is made null and void by a District Council Chief who may not even have authority to cancel the status of the woman which she enjoys under the Constitution Scheduled Tribe Order 1950.
It pains me more as I too am the granddaughter of a Non Tribal from Kerela, whom we lovingly called him ‘Parad’ which means in Khasi grandfather. He was loving and caring and lived in many localities in Shillong, where I and my siblings were born and grew up. He taught us love and kindness and was a simple man till he died in 1970 and was buried far away from his clan and community, in a Catholic Cemetery in Shillong, Meghalaya.
That upbringing rubbed on to us and we try to help those who need our services in the little ways that we can, never distinguishing between any communities, while at the same time we preserved our tradition and culture as taught by our parents. When we were small, I and my brother were dressed up for the cultural Khasi Dance, in my mother’s village in Mawphlang, irrespective of our faith. That was the Khasi Culture, rich and embracing, while respecting others.
The last few days has hit us hard as children and family were dragged in me and my friends and relatives have had to read the vulgar slangs and threats meted out to me and other Khasi women and men who opposed the bill. I never expected this from persons claiming to be Khasi’s, as, we Khasi’s are known as a ‘Jaitbynriew tip briew tip Blei’ (A Community that knows man and God). Finally I still am proud to be a Khasi, till we can determine who can be a Khasi, as down the line we may all have a mixed DNA, but only the Matrilineal cord that binds us distinctly establishes our DNA as a Matrilineal society and no pen can erase that.
Image Courtesy :Indian Women Blog
The author is a women’s rights activist in Northeast India. She is the President of the Civil Society Women’s Organization . She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org