What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder – the Bible
Shillong, Oct. 30: While marriages are said to be made in heaven and celebrated on earth, some members of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) today advocated a law “to regulate” the marriages of local indigenous people with those from other communities, particularly non-tribals.
Moving a motion on the second day of the council’s winter session, Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM) member Adelbert Nongrum, while lauding the state government for enacting the Meghalaya Compulsory Registration of Marriage Act, 2012 castigated the district council for not doing enough to put a check on marriages between indigenous and non-indigenous people.
“Yes, what God has joined together, man cannot separate, but our concern is for the identity of our microscopic community. I feel that Scheduled Tribe status to our indigenous women who marry non-indigenous men should not be granted any longer,” Nongrum said.
Asserting that it was important to regulate such wedlock, he said the intention was to preserve the identity of the community.
Supporting the motion, UDP member T.W. Chyne said the regulation should also extend to those who marry foreigners, not only non-tribals. “Such marriages affect local customs and traditions, education opportunities and employment avenues,” Chyne added.
Citing an example, he said a student, one of whoseparents belongs to the indigenous community, does avail of education opportunities provided under the state quota, thereby depriving those from the indigenous community.
He said many migrants camp in mining areas as labourers initially, before becoming owners of mines through marriage with local women.Another UDP member, Embhah Syiemlieh, said influx was causing a problem as the migrants enter into the state with the intention of settling down. “The easiest way for migrants to settle down in our state is through marriage,” he added.
Independent member Latiplang Kharkongor said it was important to refer to a Supreme Court ruling in 2006 wherein it was made clear that children born out of the wedlock between an upper caste man and a tribal woman cannot claim reservation benefits provided for Scheduled Tribes.
The court, however, said if an upper caste woman marries a tribal man, then their children “would obviously attain tribal status”. But even though her children would qualify for the Scheduled Tribe certificate, the upper caste woman “cannot automatically attain the status of a tribal unless she has been accepted by the village community as one of the tribal society,” a bench comprising Justice H.K. Sema and Justice A.R. Lakshmanan said.
However, on January 18, 2012, in the case of Rameshbhai Dabhai Naika versus the state of Gujarat and others, the question that arose before the Supreme Court was what would be the status of a person, one of whose parents belong to the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe, and the other comes from the upper caste, or more precisely does not come from Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe, and what would be the entitlement of a person from such parents to the benefits of affirmative action sanctioned by the Constitution.
The bench held that “in an inter-caste marriage or a marriage between a tribal and a non-tribal, the determination of the caste of the offspring is essentially a question of fact to be decided on the basis of the facts adduced in each case.”
“In an inter-caste marriage or a marriage between a tribal and a non-tribal, there may be a presumption that the child has the caste of the father. This presumption may be stronger in the case where in the inter-caste marriage or a marriage between a tribal and a non-tribal the husband belongs to a forward caste. But by no means the presumption is conclusive or irrebuttable. It is open to the child of such marriage to lead evidence to show that he/she was brought up by the mother who belonged to the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe.”
Replying to the motion, executive member in-charge of marriage and divorce Otril Pamshong said the views expressed by the members would be taken up before the council’s executive committee to decide whether such a regulation was required.