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India village council loosens iron grip on rural life

Published on Jul 6, 2014 12:36 PM
In this photograph taken on May 5, 2014 Assamese villager Meera Deka (centre) sits next to her father-in-law, Ranbeer Singh (right) and mother-in-law, Sajini Devi (left) during an interview with AFP at her home in Hissar district of the northern state of Haryana. -- PHOTO: AFP

BASS, India (AFP) - Yashpal Mor grew up watching men in his village stay single rather than defy the rules of the traditional council which controls Indian rural life with an iron grip.

For as long as anyone can remember, families in a cluster of villages north of the capital have lived under two sets of laws - those of the government and another imposed by unelected but powerful men.

From marriage to property and even the wearing of jeans, all-male councils, or khap panchayats, have issued diktats that have controlled life in much of Haryana state, which borders New Delhi.

"I have seen many men in our village remain unmarried all their lives," Mor told AFP in Bass, a village surrounded by lush farmland. "I don't want to share their fate."

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