A Mahapanchayat attended by several Khaps in Sonepat district in Haryana on Saturday refuted the idea of a Khap leader -- that marriageable age of girls should be brought down to 16 years -- saying the suggestion was "individual in nature" and should not be seen as the stand of the body.
The Mahapanchayat, attended by several Khaps or caste councils, did not endorse the suggestion to help curb increasing instances of rape in the state.
The function was presided over by Nafe Singh Nain and attended by various Khap leaders including Sube Singh Samain and Santosh Dahiya, president of the women's wing of a Khap.
Dahiya said that the Mahapanchayat decided to form awareness cells, comprising of three to four people in each groups, to launch an awareness campaign in rural areas of the state to educate the in a bid to help curb crimes against women.
Khap leader Sube Singh, who also attended the meet, said that his comment on reducing marriageable age was his personal opinion.
The Mahapanchayat took note of rising incidents of crime against women, including many rape incidents in Haryana during the past two months, and strongly condemned them, Singh said.
Earlier, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had dismissed the Khap Panchayat leader's suggestion, saying "We have a democratic system here, we have an independent judiciary. Law is in the hands of judiciary, nobody else".
On Sonia's comment, Dahiya said, "Our existence cannot be ignored. Khaps have been there since ages. They are part of our social system and have been in existence even before civil law was there."
Dahiya said that the Mahapanchayat also strongly condemned the statement of Haryana Congress leader Dharambir Goyat, who on Thursday claimed that 90 per cent of the cases of rapes involved "consensual sex".
"We have demanded that Goyat apologise for his shameful comment. He should seek apology from all women for what he has said," Dahiya said.
"We will also be telling people that boys and girls should be given equal rights and girls should also be made strong -- both physically and mentally," she said.