Inheritance reforms likely in Khasicommunity
   Date :21-Nov-2023

■ By Kartik Lokhande :
THE Khasi community is on the cusp of a major change. It has been mulling over inheritance reforms to streamline the distribution of share in ancestral and self-acquired property. As is the tradition, the parental property rights are inherited by the youngest daughter in the family. Hence, the matrilineal society discussing distribution of share in property to sons, is a major reform. P N Syiem, Deputy Chief Executive Member (CEM), Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC); Lamphrang Blah, Chairman; and Fanting Lakadong, Executive Member, revealed this in an interaction with a select group of senior journalists from Maharashtra visiting Shillong recently. During the interaction, Syiem said that the draft of the Khasi Inheritance of Property Bill, was ready. “Once it is passed by the District Council, it will become alawas perthe powers vestedini tregarding the Khasi tribals. However, given the fact that ours is a matrilineal society, we will need time for change to award some share of property to sons as part of the reforms,”hesaid.According to him, the Bill may take a year to be passed.

queen mother
The Bill was firsttabled in 2021.However, owing to difference of view points and certain suggestions given by the Select Committee constituted to scrutiniseit,some amendments were carried out to make the Bill legally sound. The primary objective of the Bill is to streamline the distribution of share in ancestral and self acquired property to sons in the family. However, as the KHADC members pointed out, it was not mandatory that sons would be entitled to all the property. It would depend on the will of the parents choosing the heirto theirproperty.The objective is not to disempower women, but to ensure that sons in the family are not deprived of the inheritance share in property. For quite some time, there has been demand in this regard from the Khasi men, Syiem said. Of course, he added,thetradition of parental property rightsvested in the youngest daughter would continue.
The visiting journalists from Maharashtra also visited Smit seat of Hima Khyrim kingdom. Dr Balajied Singh Syiem, Chieftain of Hima Khyrim; Batriti Syiem, Queen; Habapan Singh Syiem, Deputy Chieftain, presided over the two-day Nongkhrem festival, which is the festival of harvest.They watched the traditional dances and artists playing traditional musical instruments, and honoured them at the end of the ceremony. As Sarang Pophale, Deputy Director, Doordarshan, Shillong,told mediapersons, King’s wife was not Queen in Khasi tribe. Rather, King’s sister was the Queen.Her son becomes the king and daughter becomes the Queen in the matrilineal system. Queen Mother commands a great respect in the society. Panhok Shilla, son of the King of Hima Khyrim, interacted with mediapersons. When the subject of reforms was broached during the interaction, Panhok Shilla said that a section of males in the society felt disem powered because of matrilineal tradition of inheritance. “Hence, the District Councilin consultation with Hima Khyrimhas started discussion on the matter. Reforms will come up, but how... it will be decided by the society. There is another issue also -- of women seeking greater representation in the District Council. A healthy debate is going on in the society regarding the reforms on both the counts. Already,the process has started in a way, through some rulings allowing women to participate in elections. So, we are on the cusp of reforms,” he elaborated.