Khasi women to lose tribal status if she marries a non-tribal

GUWAHATI: In a significant step towards protecting the indigenousness of the Khasi population of Meghalaya, the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC), the autonomous administration body set up under 6th Schedule of the Constitution, has passed a legislation by which a Khasi woman will lose her Khasi tribal status and all the benefits and privileges under it if she marries a non-Khasi man and so will her offsprings borne out of the mixed marriage.

Chief executive member of the autonomous council, who heads the autonomous council administration, HS Shylla told TOI, “This legislation was necessary to prevent the small Khasi population from becoming extinct. It is for preserving the traditional matrilineal system of society of the Khasis and for the protection of their interest,” he said.

He clarified, “The legislation does not bar any Khasi girl from marrying a non-Khasi tribal. She would only cease to enjoy the benefits and privileges of a Khasi tribal after her marriage with a non-Khasi. Her children borne out her mixed marriage also cannot claim any of these tribal benefits and privileges. The law is also not in retrospective and all those who had married before this law will not come under this new law,” Shylla said.

When asked if the law would be applicable for Khasi men, Shyla said, “There are negligible of number Khasi men marrying a non-Khasi woman…but if there is a necessity in future, we can bring the men too under the law.”

Meghalaya is divided into three autonomous councils, Khasi, Jaintia and Garo. The anti-mixed marriage legislation will be applicable in the three districts of West Khasi Hills district, East Khasi Hills district and Ri Bhoi districts, which are under the jurisdiction of KHADC.

The autonomous district councils within the respective autonomous areas, are empowered to make laws of land, management of forests, except reserved forests, regulation on trade by persons not being local scheduled tribes, appointment of traditional chiefs and headmen, inheritance of property, marriage, divorce, social customs, establishment and maintenance of Primary Schools, markets, taxation, issue of lease for extraction of minerals, etc.

The legislation, Khasi Hills Autonomous District (Khasi Social Custom of Lineage) (Second Amendment) Bill, 2018 was passed by the council unanimously on Wednesday and will come into force after receiving the governor’s accent followed by gazette notification, Shylla said.

“All other existing constitutional safeguards have not been able to serve the sole objective of protecting the indigenous rights of the Khasi people from immigrants. We are witnessing a silent invasion,” Shylla said.

The new law says that a “non-Khasi means a person not belonging to indigenous Khasi tribe classified as Scheduled Tribe under the Constitution (Scheduled Tribe) order, 1950 (Part III- Rules and Orders under the Constitution) Part XI-Meghalaya.”

He said that though existing laws like the Meghalaya Transfer of Land (Regulation) by which the state government controls its use of land and its transfer from a tribal to a non-tribal has not been effective fully. “Land is there could be transferred indirectly to non-tribals through marriage to tribal Khasi women and we don’t want this to continue,” he said.

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