19 Jul 22.
The Butterfly Effect:
In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.
The term is closely associated with the work of mathematician and meteorologist Edward Norton Lorenz. He noted that the butterfly effect is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a tornado (the exact time of formation, the exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations such as a distant butterfly flapping its wings several weeks earlier. Lorenz originally used a seagull causing a storm but was persuaded to make it more poetic with the use of butterfly and tornado by 1972. A very small change in initial conditions had created a significantly different outcome. The butterfly effect concept has since been used outside the context of weather science as a broad term for any situation where a small change is supposed to be the cause of larger consequences.
Debates on the genesis and historicity of khaps may persist but the fact is that in recent memory, some of the diktats given by khaps have shocked the masses and questions have been raised over its social reach and extrajudicial power. Threat to its political survival and constitutional validity possibly resulted in its dramatic shift to an overarching, authoritarian extraconstitutional body. It went into overdrive to sustain its moral and normative control. It projected itself as the supreme authority and only worthy custodian of social customs, traditions, local hierarchies and ethnic purity. Local leaders exploiting their control on local communities used it as an instrumentality for gaining political power and for entrenching the fangs of patriarchy. In the last two decades, several activists’ organisations, largely comprised of feminist groups questioned their proscribed acts. Even the Supreme Court judgement in March 2018 has decried that marriage decrees by Khap panchayats as illegal.
According to National Geographic, Poaching is the illegal trafficking and killing of wildlife. Sometimes animal or plant parts are sold as trophies or “folk medicines” and sometimes they are sold as pets or houseplants.
That being said, what has these three distinct things got to do together.
Typically, the married couple are killed by Khap panchayat diktats for bringing dishonour to the community at large either because they married within the same gothra or community. These khaps are predominant in North Eastern Rajasthan, Eastern Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh. In order to escape these diktats, the couple elope from their respective hometowns and travel far and wide across the country. With little or no money, one can see them near the doors of trains ready to jump off the train as soon as the TTE is sighted.
This is where the butterfly effect comes into place.
These couples who have escaped from such diktats, settle on the road sides selling all kinds of concoctions for all illnesses known and unknown. In most instances these tents have womenfolk in them. The menfolk travel to the forests of the western and eastern ghats in India and poach on forest produce.
I myself was a witness to one such instance some years back. A steel wire bent in a weird shape (snare) was tied to 2 trees on the forest fringes of Bandipur near a village called Hangala in Gundlupet Tq of Mysore District. On a routine patrol, a forester and myself found this found a Wild boar had its legs caught in this snare and was crying and was very weak. We immediately called the Ranger (RFO) and he along with a forest guard came along and released the wild boar from this snare. A small crowd had gathered by that time and we found 2 men quite out of place in the gathering speaking in a distinct Hindi dialect not found in that part of the world who were part of the crowd. Upon general enquiry, the villagers had seen these men for the past few days moving around suspiciously. They had a bag in their hand, one of them tripped and the bag fell and it revealed several such contraptions. Hence they were taken in for questioning.
This is where the 3 things mentioned earlier come together. A Khap panchayat diktat in distant Haryana leads to a poached wild animal in Mysore District
Upon further interrogation, things started unravelling. They hail from a small village in Haryana, both men married against the wishes of their families, the Khap panchayat issued an ultimatum to leave the village, with little or no education, they find it difficult to manage families. Hence, they find an easy way out. Set up tents on footpath of urban clusters, sell concoctions as cures for every known and unknown illnesses, pottery, small nurseries, toys, balloons and whatever else they can get their hands on. More often than not, the women folk man these roadside tents while the menfolk go to distant forests in search of forest produce, typically Ivory, Tiger and Leopard Claws, Tiger and Leopard Skin, Wild boar for meat, Skin of spotted deer, anything and everything that get caught in such snares or contraptions.
In the last 2 years the numbers though have reduced largely because of the Supreme Court judgment. But the problem persists in smaller numbers.
Is a complete prevention possible? That’s a million-dollar question.
KHAP PANCHAYATS: TENTACLES OF TRADITIONAL INSTITUTION: Dr Maninder Kaur, Chairperson, Department of Anthropology, Panjab University, Chandigarh