900 319 0030

Khasi Inheritance of Property Bill, 2021

iasparliament Logo
November 02, 2021

What is the issue?

  • A district autonomous council in Meghalaya recently announced that it would introduce the ‘Khasi Inheritance of Property Bill, 2021.
  • The Bill has brought into focus the practice of matriliny in Meghalaya.

What does matriliny in Meghalaya entail?

The three tribes of Meghalaya - Khasis, Jaintias, and Garos - practise a matrilineal system of inheritance.

  • Lineage and descent are traced through the mother’s clan.
  • Children take the mother’s surname.
  • The husband moves into his wife’s house.
  • The youngest daughter (khatduh) of the family is bequeathed the full share of the ancestral (or the clan’s) property.
  • The khatduh becomes the “custodian” of the land and assumes all responsibility associated with the land.


  • The khatduh cannot sell the property, without permission of her mother’s brother (maternal uncle) - since he technically belongs to the mother’s clan, through which descent is traced.
  • This inheritance tradition applies only to ancestral or clan/community property, which has been with the family for years.
  • The self-acquired property can be distributed equally among siblings.
  • In this traditional set-up, if a couple does not have any daughters, then the property goes to the wife’s elder sister, and her daughters.
  • If the wife does not have sisters, then the clan usually takes over the property.

Does matriliny really empower women?

  • [Matrilineal is not to be confused with matriarchal, where women function as heads.]
  • The matrilineal system in Meghalaya rarely empowers women.
  • The custodianship is often misconstrued as ownership vested in just one person, the khatduh.
  • But this custodianship comes with the responsibility to care for aged parents, unmarried or destitute siblings and other clan members.
  • Also, the custodian cannot buy or sell the land, without taking permission from her maternal uncle.
  • While women may have freedom of mobility and easier access to education, they are not decision makers in Meghalaya.
  • There are barely any women in positions of power, in politics, or heading institutions.
  • The Dorbar Shnong (traditional Khasi village governing bodies) debar women from contesting elections.

What are the implications of the system?

  • The system “disinherits” men, and denies equitable property distribution between all children in the family.
  • Many times, boys are not able to take loans because there is no collateral to show.
  • 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.
  • Only about 35-38% of women own property in the state; because most of the property is clan property or community property.

What does the Bill envisage?

  • “Equitable distribution” of parental property among siblings in the Khasi community - both male and female.
  • Let parents decide who they want to will their property to.
  • Prevent a sibling from getting parental property if they marry a non-Khasi and accept the spouse’s customs and culture.
  • If implemented, this would modify an age-old customary practice of inheritance of the matrilineal Khasi tribe.

How likely is the Bill to be passed?

  • The Bill is yet to be introduced in the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC).
  • Passing it into a legislation is a long-drawn process and may draw opposition.
  • Since KHADC is a body under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, it does not have the power to legislate.
  • Paragraph 12 A of the Sixth Schedule gives the final right of passing a law to the state legislature.
  • Also, while some groups have been campaigning for such a legislation, they do not quite agree with the manner the KHADC has introduced the Bill.
  • That 70% of Khasi families are property-less needs to be acknowledged when discussing property rights and this Bill.




Login or Register to Post Comments
There are no reviews yet. Be the first one to review.



Upsc Mains 2022