General Studies Paper 2

Context: Recently, a tribal council’s order not to issue a Scheduled Tribe (ST) certificate to any Khasi person who adopts the surname of her or his father

More about the news

  • The order:
    • The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) has directed the headmen of all villages and urban localitiesacross the Khasi domain not to issue ST certificates to those who adopt their father’s surname instead of sticking to tradition by taking their mother’s clan name.
    • The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Khasi Social Custom of Lineage Act, 1997 also says that in order for someone to legally belong to their mother’s Khasi clan, they or their mother cannot adopt the “personal laws” of their non-Khasi father (or husband).
  • Significance:
    • KHADC claimed that the move is for the preservation and protection of the age-old tradition of the community.

Matriliny in Meghalaya

  • Communities:
    • The Khasis, numbering about 1.39 lakh, are one of the three indigenous matrilineal communities in the northeastern State. The other two are Garos and Jaintias.
  • What constitutes Matriliny?
    • In this system, lineage and descent are traced through the mother’s clan, like
      • Children take the mother’s surname,
      • The husband moves into his wife’s house, and
      • The youngest daughter (khatduh)of the family is bequeathed the full share of the ancestral — or the clan’s — property.
    • The khatduh becomes the “custodian” of the land.
      • She assumes all responsibility associated with the land, including taking care of aged parents, unmarried or destitute siblings.
    • Khasi marrying non-Khasi person:
      • It is mandatory for any Khasi woman who marries a non-Khasi needs to obtain the Khasi tribe certificate for applying for the ST certificate for her children.
    • Activism to switch to the patrilineal system:
      • Men’s rights activists among the Khasis have been fighting for switching over from the matrilineal to the patrilineal system since the 1960s.

Difference between ‘matrilineal’ & ‘matriarchal’ society

  • Matriliny:
    • Matriliny is formed with regard to the rules of inheritance. In matrilineal societies pass on property from mother to daughter.
  • Matriarchy:
    • Matriarchy on the other hand is formed with regard to the exercise of authority and domination.
    • A matriarchal family structure is where the women exercise authority and dominance.
  • The case of Meghalaya:
    • With the entire state of Meghalaya following a matrilineal system, the one thing most people tend tomisuse is the word ‘matrilineal’ and mistake it to be matriarchal in nature.
      • In the case of the Khasi community, this, however, is not true. The husband is still the head of the family and elder men have a vital part to play in society.
      • The traditional matrilineal society has always kept women out of the larger decision-making process in social institutions like the village council.
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