TODAY -

Keina Katpa: Is it a deterrent or a disaster

Lempu Rangla aka Ted Mosby *

A scene from 'Nate Famda Tero'
A scene from 'Nate Famda Tero' :: Pix - eRang



"Change is the only constant in life." - Heraclitus

Heraclitus has righty pointed out that change is the only constant in life. We have to undergoes a surge of change in our every day life. It could be either those imposed on us by someone superior to us, or we ourselves change to achieve welfare and wellbeing for everyone in the society. The traditional norms and values also eventually gives way to the more codified version of laws and rules in the society. It is not to dismissed that our values in the traditional way is inferior to the new laws and ruling in any way.

But it is also true that the traditional values, norms, and dispensation of justices are not written and clear cut as in the modern laws and rules. The role of a civil society is as much an important element as any other institution that are meant to strengthen and sustain the society. But it cannot be rule out that misused of power can happen, as "to err is human nature". But the degree of error can be minimized if there is much stronger and legal act to support them do their function, which will result in betterment of the society. In this writing of mine I would address the issue of keina katpa, and try to justify it whether it is a deterrent to social evil acts or has it become a disaster as it has been misused!!!

Keina katpa is derived from the term keina meaning "bride" and katpa meaning "to offer", therefore it is an act of "offering a bride". In the recent time, films made in Manipur tried to address the issue of sex scandal(illicit affairs), camera scam, video filmed in a restaurant etc. it is interesting to observed the portrayal of the women in these films. In one of the film Sanadi Sanani in one of the scene it so happen, when the hero and the heroine were on a date, the hero catches the hand of the heroine. The heroine shrugs herself off and say "if I call the press and complain that you held my hand, then you would land yourself in trouble". The hero retaliate " I love you, if possible I would like to request them to perform "keina katpa" upon us". This act itself shows how a simple act of holding hands etc could lead to keina katpa.

Keina katpa is an act of marrying any two men and women(number can varies), when they are found, rather considered to be indulging in an act which is considered malicious, a taboo, and a crime by the society. But the irony is there is no specifics acts like committing rapes, molestation, stalking etc which will lead to keina katpa. Any of these or all of these could lend ones to keina katpa.

Keina katpa in itself is a derogatory terms. It is an offering of the bride(women) to the men. An offering is made to a deity, goddesses etc, to please them, seek their blessing etc. likewise, here in this case male is treated as someone already in the higher hierarchy than female, and must be pleased with an offer. In a normal situation, an offering is made which is considered to be the best, but in this act of offering that is keina katpa, a women who is deemed as impure, incestuous, a person of loose moral and character will be offered to the male who is involved in the act.

Maybe the logic is to shame the male saying, it is a shame on you that we are offering you an impure object(women here), But it still does denote that an offering is made. Which again shows that women are treated as an object which can be offered to please someone. The crux of performing keina katpa is to act as a deterrent. But it turns out, it is yielding to the lustful nature of the person concerned. The irony of this justice delivery system is that, the women are blame almost exclusively, saying it happens because you let it happens. The option of women being misled by men is rule out.

Let us take for example when, the women is misled by a crooked minded man by adding sedatives in the drinks and were caught by the civil society. In this scenario it is all likely that the women out of shame will have to necessarily marry the man. It is actually a rape committed, instead of punishing the accused he is instead offer an offering in the form of a bride, irrespective of his marital status. And in other cases because of dispute and personal enmity also other try to blame innocent brother in laws and sister in laws indulging in such acts. The majority made the ruling, and the rest is as they say history.

Is it not marriage supposedly to be undergone when both the party are consensus, or atleast the parents as in the case of arranged marriage?. But keina katpa is a whole new level and a game changer to the act of marriage. If some women society, students union, civil society found one, say in a secluded places, restaurant etc, with the opposite sex, talking, holding hands, kissing etc. it could lead to marriage. The marriage could be solemnized on the very spot, on the very day etc. In case of keina katpa, caste factors, marital status are secondary factors.

Keina katpa is a term and act which is common among the Meitei community, but the act of "forced marriage" I coin it as forced marriage because in most of the keina katpa performed, I don't think neither the male nor the female embrace the act with cheers and joy. It is rather that they are coerced upon. Keina katpa act is also found among the tribals as well. But in term of tribal society it is more reasonable and liberal.

In the sense that, unless, it is confirmed that they were indeed indulging in sexual act(illicit) which is a considered a taboo, the forced marriage is not carried upon. And to the extreme even if found guilty, they considered the marital status of both the party, and a consensus can be reached where a fine will be impose on male/female involved. And if the women/men are already a married person then forced marriage is hardly carried upon. Unless, they insist they be married off. But in case of keina katpa it is altogether different, your marital status doesn't matter.

"Marriage is honourable in heaven" as Bible says. Entering into marriage is one of the most important decision one have to make in one's life. And some ultra feminist even skips the marriage altogether claiming marriage in itself has turn out to be an institution where women are dominated and discriminated. But on the contrary we still have this keina katpa with the supreme authority to declare anyone husband and wife. And the irony is, it is the women who took the initiative in performing the act. So it become all the more important to question are they really doing justices to their women folks or the other way round.

Now let us take the second scenario, where they were indulging in such illicit act with consensus. If that is the case who are we to forced them to marry or more importantly make the man the husband of the women? Is it just because the places say hotel/restaurant they were using is not for such act, so they must be married? If they are to be married, then, shouldn't they be married off with fanfare , pomps and joyous celebration instead of hearing the sarcastics remarks of loose morals and characters which will be hang around their necks like an albatross their whole life!!!! And it is the worse, if the man is a married man, but the society don't care what would be the condition of the women after their marriage. Will it be too wrong of us, if an opportunity is given to the women who wants to take a new road with the scar on her face.(avoiding forced/coerced marriage)!!

It has never been my intention to say, such acts of illicit relationship be encourage or nurture. What I wished to emphasis here is the ends of what the society expects that is, a society free from all such vices and acts. Undoubtedly it is the society where every wish to live in. But the means adopted to achieve the end doesn't justify the ends. It is also not my intention that the right exercised by civil society should be curtailed.

But as mention above, it would be more appropriate for both the civil society and the society at large if the rights and jurisdiction of the civil society are in a more codified manner. Likewise what act, acted where, acted upon who by whom etc should also be clearly demarcated. Some may argue other developed countries also don't have written laws. But heed, we are in a country where our constitution is written, every word in every act is discussed upon.

So handling out the supreme authority to the civil society to dispense justice on their own whims and fancies will undoubtedly be against the very aim of the civil society to remove the social vices from the society. The question of whether the act of keina katpa is an act of deterrent or has it become a disaster is open for the public to debate, and discussed.


* Lempu Rangla aka Ted Mosby wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is MA in Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai
This article was posted on May 21, 2014.


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