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Khasi adjudication on matrilineality is divinely ordered

By Aristotle Lyngdoh

                 Much has been written and spoken about the amendment to the Lineage Bill passed recently by the KHADC  but the core controversy has not been adequately addressed. The attempt to prevent the exploitation of Khasi women by non-Khasi men through cross-cultural marriages is being contended by the fact that it demeans the social customs of matriliny. These two things are the underlying threat to our culture as well as identity. Firstly, As a tribe we have absolute rights granted by the Constitution under the Sixth Schedule to protect and preserve the cultural identity and also to regulate marriages within the tribe. Not only this, but it is also a fundamental right to protect our interests under Article 29. Secondly, to exonerate women who married from outside the tribe is also a violation to their ancestral, personal and traditional right.

                In view of these clashes we need therefore to further introspect on the issue. The KHADC has a clear answer as to why it has legislated such amendment. It is to prevent our women from getting married outside the tribe. But if we do a reality check as to why our women have to cross the social boundaries to entrust themselves to strangers called non- Khasis requires in-depth research.  By simply saying that our women are freelancers with absolute freedom is unethical because we might have forgotten about their intrinsic nature of dependency. As far as cross-cultural relationship is concerned, the intention of KHADC is clear in this regard, while the intention of those women who married outside the tribe is naturally for the sake of companionship. But the intention of non- Khasi husbands as claimed by KHADC is purely for economic exploitation.  It may be a fact in many cases, but in some cases such claim is not true because there are non- Khasi fathers and husband who are better than any Khasi gentleman in terms of raising their children decently. But there are also cases of Khasi women who married  non- Khasis and have regretted later because of the exploitation they suffered. The clashes of these intentions are not yet addressed properly to the full satisfaction of everyone. If the Bill in its present form fails to cater and rehabilitate those who have been exploited but willing to return to their original culture, then a great blunder of deprivation may have been committed simply by ignoring the authentication process.

                Perhaps as a tribe (Jaitbynriew) we have forgotten about our roots so let me remind here on the role that each individual person has been assigned by our ancestors. In my previous article a couple of year ago I had mentioned that traditionally in our indigenous society when a person is born to this world certain practices were carried out during the christening ceremony which is symbolical in defining the personality of an individual. For a female child, the materials that were assigned are ‘ka khoh u star’ (khasi cone & crafted bamboo rope).  This symbolizes that the woman is destined to don the role of  caretaker and custodian of ancestral property and resources. In return she will also have to shoulder the responsibility of taking care of the parents and other family members when they are old or during difficult situations. Meanwhile the three arrows that were symbolically assigned to a male child signify the three protective roles destined for every man to fulfill. First of all he is expected to protect his own life and personality not only from physical harm but from various forms of self-destruction and dehumanization. Secondly, he is also expected to protect and defend his own family and clan from hardships and difficulties that threaten their existence and well being in life. Thirdly, he is expected to become a soldier or warrior for the entire community and tribe in times of need. If every Khasi can assimilate these basic principles then we can successfully manage our community and society better.

                What our forefathers have done hundreds or thousands of years back when they have not even heard about Christ and Christian principles, and their action and adjudication in defining gender is absolutely in alignment with the Bible or the Word of God. In Genesis 2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Here it clearly says that a man leaves his family and comes to a woman’s habitat. Further, in Ephesian 5:25 “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.” Here again comes the protective role of men and what women need in general is care, love and protection which has been grossly violated and forgotten. Interestingly, in 1 Peter 3:7 the Bible refers to women as a weaker vessel that has also been regarded in our culture as ‘shi buit, shi bor’ (lesser in wisdom and strength) in comparison to the ‘khat -ar bor’ (superior by 12 times in strength) for men. Ieid ri or jaitbynriew (patriotism) is meaningful only when all the three roles symbolized by these arrows are fulfilled.

The chronic disease that affects our society is broken homes and families. This is rampant in rural areas and among the illiterate. And because of this loophole others may take undue advantage. Reasons for this are numerous but one thing is sure; the society as a whole lacks proper knowledge on sexual relationship or sex education (not exactly birth control). As relationship in our society is based on love, sex education is vital in order to achieve planned parenthood. Further, pre and post marital sex education can be of great help for healthy home and families. This pathetic situation in rural areas requires immediate attention. The roots of social chronics are plenty and we can continue to dig out one by one and this will help us to address the issue correctly.

                I strongly believe that there can be various alternatives to supplement the move of KHADC in preventing economic exploitation of women by non-Khasi men but not necessarily by castigating women who marry outside the tribe. And these alternatives can be judiciously engineered and designed by the KHADC with the help of right thinking intellectuals that will ultimately satisfy the motives and initiative of the KHADC in preventing exploitation of women by non-Khasi men and to further conserve the sanctity of our identity. To be precise, our identity is not in the blood but in the culture we adopt and the language we speak and communicate with one another. However, identifying lineage and identity through DNA linkages is another silly attempt because DNA sequencing and mapping might indicate and point a connection with a common ancestor or a ‘mitochondrial Eve’ as one geneticist opined. The only historical record available on how different nations and tribes are created on the surface of the earth is the Tower of Babel. This divine intervention of the Tower of Babel is significant in the context of cultural and ethnic identity. Therefore, we must accept this reality that the growth of humanity is no longer from a single race but from different tribes and tongues. Smaller tribes need to protect themselves from being assimilated or they might disappear in course of time.

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