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Tribal women in Himachal entitled to ancestral property: High Court

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 Shimla: Setting aside almost a century old customary law that  allows only men to inherit ancestral property if it is not  bequeathed, the Himachal Pradesh High Court in a historic  judgment observed that tribal women, too, could inherit property.

“The daughters in the tribal areas of Himachal Pradesh shall  inherit property in accordance with the Hindu Succession Act of  1956 and not as per customs. This is in order to prevent women  from facing social injustice and all forms of exploitation,” Justice  Rajiv Sharma said in a judgment provided to the media on Friday.

He said the laws must evolve with the times if societies are to progress.

“It is made clear by way of abundant precaution that the observations made here only pertain to right to inherit the property by daughters under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, and not any other privileges enjoyed by the tribals in the tribal areas,” he said in a 60-page order.

The law, “Wajib Ul Urj”, which came into force in the state’s tribal district of Kinnaur in 1926, permits only men to inherit ancestral property, if it is not bequeathed.

It is also applicable in Lahaul and Spiti districts and some remote areas of Chamba district.

The patriarchal law even bars widows from inheriting their husbands’ property, which under the customary law is transferred to the sons.

Justice Sharma upheld an order passed by the district judge of Chamba in 2002 to grant legal property rights to women.

“The tribal belts have modernized with the passage of time. They profess Hindu rites and customs. They do not follow different gods. Their culture may be different but customs must conform to the constitutional philosophy,” the judge added.

“It is really a victory over social evil,” 61-year-old social activist Rattan Manjari, chairperson of the Mahila Kalyan Parishad, a women’s rights group, told IANS over phone.

Manjari said that the condition of deserted women, widows and spinsters in the district was deplorable due the customary law.

“Now the inheritance right would enable these women in tribal areas to live with dignity,” she added.

Manjari’s mother bequeathed to her the family’s entire agricultural land though she had a brother.

“The women commanded much respect in tribal society, especially with the polyandry system in vogue until a few decades ago, and never felt the need of the right to inherit property.”

“With times changing, however, there were many cases when women, after the death of husband or parents, were abandoned by the family members, forcing them to do petty jobs (for survival),” she said. (IANS)

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Heavy Snowfall Expected Across Himachal Pradesh

Shimla recorded the minimum temperature at 3.7 degrees Celsius, while it was 0.6 degree in Manali and 2.8 degrees in Dharamsala

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Moderate to heavy snowfall may occur across Himachal Pradesh in the next one-two days, the Met Office said on Wednesday.

Residents and tourists have been advised not to venture in the high hills as snapping of road links are high.

The supply of essential commodities and transportation of people may get hampered in remote areas of the state, a government official told IANS.

Hills of Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Sirmaur, Chamba, Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur districts are likely to experience moderate to heavy snowfall from January 4-6, an official of the meteorological office here told IANS.

He said the western disturbances — storm systems originating from Caspian Sea and moving across the Afghanistan-Pakistan region — are likely to remain active in the region till January 9.

Avoid travelling as snow may block Himachal roads.

Most of the prominent tourist towns like Shimla, Narkanda, Kufri, Dalhousie and Manali are likely to have light to moderate spells of snowfall, he added.

Kalpa in Kinnaur district saw mild snowfall. It recorded a low of minus 3.4 degree Celsius.

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Keylong in Lahaul-Spiti district was the coldest place in the state with a low of minus 4.6 degree.

Shimla recorded the minimum temperature at 3.7 degrees Celsius, while it was 0.6 degree in Manali and 2.8 degrees in Dharamsala. (IANS)