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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Meghalaya: District council introduces Khasi inheritance Bill that departs from matrilineal tradition

The Bill — aimed at “equitable distribution” of parental property among siblings in the Khasi community — will be debated on Wednesday, the final day of the session.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: November 8, 2021 9:51:31 pm
The Bill also adds that any Khasi woman, or a child of a Khasi woman, who marries outside the community, as well as those who marry against parental consent will lose inheritance rights. (AP)

The Khasi Inheritance of Property Bill, 2021 — which departs from the age-old Khasi matrilineal tradition of parents bequeathing property to the youngest daughter — was introduced in the autumn session of Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) on Monday.

The Bill — aimed at “equitable distribution” of parental property among siblings in the Khasi community — will be debated on Wednesday, the final day of the session.

“The objective of the Bill is to streamline the distribution of property,” KHADC chief Titosstarwell Chyne told The Indian Express. He added: “There is a misconception that the Bill makes it mandatory for all children to get parental property. It does not. It is just that parents now have the option of writing a will to decide who gets what, if they wish,” he said.

According to the customs of the matrilineal Khasi society — which traces inheritance and descent through the mother’s clan — the youngest daughter (khatduh) of the family is bequeathed the full share of the ancestral (or the clan’s) property, becoming the ‘custodian’ of the land. Apart from that, children take the mother’s surname and the husband moves into his wife’s house in the matrilineal system.

According to the proposed Bill, any Khasi can distribute his/her property — sell-acquired or ancestral — among children by writing a will (pynkam) “as far as practicable”. When there is no will or family declaration, then the prevailing Khasi custom (that of the youngest daughter getting the full share of the property) would remain in force.

Chyne said that those who wanted to stick to the traditional practice were welcome to do so. He had earlier argued that the traditional practice had led to a lot of problems . “Many times, boys are not able to take loans because there is no collateral to show. Sometimes, when a couple has no children, and there is no genuine heir, the clan takes over the property, as per custom. It leads to a number of litigations by children against their parents,” Chyne had said.

The Bill stipulates that even if the property is distributed through a will, it should happen on the condition that the youngest daughter inherits the house of the deceased parent.

The Bill also adds that any Khasi woman, or a child of a Khasi woman, who marries outside the community, as well as those who marry against parental consent will lose inheritance rights.

If passed by the district council, the Bill will be sent to the Governor. However, it is subject to the approval of the state legislature, which has the final right of passing a law as per the provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, under which the autonomous KHADC falls.

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