A group of Khasi women singing a decades-old Assamese song Credit: Screenshot

Shillong: A Bill that seeks to strip Khasi women of their inheritance rights if they adopt their non-tribal husbands’ customs and tradition was tabled in a tribal council in matrilineal Meghalaya on Monday.

Children of such mixed marriages will also lose their inheritance rights if they follow their fathers’ customs, according to the Bill brought in the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC).

On the first day of the new session of the Council, the Khasi Hills Autonomous District (Khasi Inheritance of Property) Bill, 2021, was tabled by Chief Executive Member Titosstar Well Chyne, detailing the rights of a Khasi woman and her children if she marries outside the tribe.

“It is expedient to make law on the custom pertaining to the Khasi inheritance of property, and it is, therefore, considered necessary to enact this Bill for proper regulation and administration on Inheritance of Property among Khasi women in Khasi Hills,” the Bill stated.

“In case a Khasi woman, who has married a non-Khasi and has adopted the custom of her husband, will lose the right of inheritance,” it said.

The Bill aims at streamlining the process of distribution of ancestral and self-acquired properties, Chyne said.

As far as practicable, the property should be equitably distributed among all the children of the family both male and female provided that the house of the deceased parent shall be inherited by Ka Khun Khadduh (youngest daughter) if she is not disqualified (under the conditions of the Bill), according to the Bill.

In the Khasi matrilineal society, parental property traditionally goes to the youngest daughter.

The Bill stated that the second wife will have no right to claim over the property of her husband and her children will also have no right to the self-acquired property of their father while he lived in the house of the first wife.

Polygamy is accepted in Khasi culture, with certain conditions.

The Bill, however, said the second wife or her children can have a share of her husband’s property if there is a will or ‘pynkam’ in local language.

With regards to non-availability of heirs in the absence of children (known as Iapduh family), the Bill stated that such property shall be inherited by way of a will executed by the executor during his/her lifetime or a family declaration or family settlement executed during the lifetime of the owner of the property.

The Bill, if passed by the Council and then approved by the governor, will become a law applicable in West Khasi Hills, East Khasi Hills and Ri Bhoi – the districts that come under the jurisdiction of the KHADC.

In 2018, the KHADC – one of the three self-governing bodies in Meghalaya – passed a Bill that aims at stripping a Khasi woman of her tribal status once she marries an outsider.

According to the 2011 Census, around 1.4 million Khasis reside in Meghalaya.

The North-eastern state is divided into three autonomous councils for Khasi, Jaintia and Garo tribes.

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