After inserting a clause in the Khasi Social Custom of Lineage Act, 1997 that seeks to deny Khasi status to Khasi women who marry men outside the tribe, an Executive Committee of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) on Tuesday decided to fine-tune its Lineage Bill so that Khasi women who marry men outside the tribe should also take the surname of her husband.
KHADC chief executive member, Hispreaching Son Shylla told reporters that in order to fine tune the amendment bill, the Executive Committee in its meeting held on Tuesday, has decided to recall the second amendment bill from the state government in order to be able to fine-tune it further.
The Khasi Social Custom of Lineage (Second Amendment) Bill, 2018 was passed by the Council on July 25 by amending the principal Act – Khasi Social Custom of Lineage, 1997.
In the second Amendment Bill, sub-section 3 (d) states that “any Khasi woman who marries a non-Khasi as well as her offspring(s) born out of such marriage(s) 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.”
Shylla said that the executive committee would write to the Meghalaya government to send back the second amendment bill to the Council for fine-tuning it especially to insert a clause that will specifically state that a Khasi woman who entered into wedlock with a man outside the Khasi tribe, she and her children would also lose the privilege to take the surname from the mother, but should take the surname of her husband.
“Khasi women who marry non-Khasi should also take the surname of her husband and her children also should take the surname of their non-Khasi father,” Shylla said.
In Meghalaya, the Khasi tribe follows the matrilineal system by taking the surname from the mother.
Meghalaya Governor Ganga Prasad had recently forwarded the second amendment bill to the state government for its views and opinions, and the bill is being studied by the District Council Affairs department along with the Law department.
Shylla said on August 16, the Executive Committee will write to the state government to send back the second amendment bill to the Council for fine-tuning it.
Asked if the amendment bill was hurriedly passed on July 25, Shylla defended saying, it was a not a hurried move, because the need to bring out such a law has been a long felt need for the interest of the indigenous tribe and to prevent misusing of the tribal status through marriage.
According to Shylla, in rural areas restricting Khasi women from entering into wedlock with men outside the tribe has been a customary practice. He claimed that majority of the people appreciated the council for bringing the second amendment bill.
“The amendment bill is not only legislation, but more of a codification of the customary practice,” Shylla added.
Stating that there was nothing wrong in preserving and protecting the minor tribe like the Khasi, Shylla said, “Article 29 of the Constitution on protection of interests of minorities also states that any section of citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof is having a distinct language, script or culture of its own, have the right to conserve those”.
He said consultative committee for fine-tuning the second amendment bill would be also formed.
Shylla informed that the Executive Committee has also decided to recall the first Amendment Bill passed in 2015 for “wrongly” inserting a clause related to the process of appointing a clan elder (Rangbah Kur).
“This clause in the first Amendment Bill should be deleted and come up with a Khasi Clan Bill, which will underline the appointment of Rangbah Kur (clan elder), as well as registration of all clans.
Shylla said that a clause in the principal act related to penalty should also be amended so as to ensure that a violator of the act would be liable to a fine of huge amount.
“It is required to increase the fine amount, since, it is so easy to pay a fine of just Rs 5000 by violators of the act especially after earning crores of rupees,” Shylla said.
Questions were raised whether a Khasi woman who married a non-Khasi would earn the Khasi status again in case she marries a Khasi man after the death of her non-Khasi husband.
On this Shylla said, “We are not making the law based on presumption. Once the amendment bill is fine-tuned, a Khasi woman who marries a non-Khasi would cease to be a Khasi and she along with her children should take the surname of her husband.”