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Indian women’s rights activists want equality in all inheritance law

11th March 2013

The law, put in place in the tribal district of Kinnaur in 1926, states that, unless it has been specifically bequeathed in a last will and testament, only men can inherit ancestral property.

Social activist Rattan Manjari, who is one of the few women in the region to have inherited family property, said, “We are shortly going to knock on the doors of the high court to get justice.”

Subhash Mendhapurkar, director of Shimla-based NGO Social Uplift Through Rural Action (SUTRA), said that all women of India should be treated the same under inheritance law and that as the amended Hindu Succession Act of 1956 gave equal inheritance rights to men and women, it should also be applicable for the tribespeople in Kinnaur.

Mendhapurkar said that the proposed changes to the patriarchal law was meeting fervent opposition from the men of the region as they fear that once women are independent property owners they will be attractive to men from outside the community and the tribe will become diluted by marriage outside the group.

S.K. Garg Narwana, a senior advocate with the Punjab and Haryana High Court, said that the tribal inheritance law is unconstitutional, adding, “As per Schedule I of the Hindu Succession Act, the wife is the first successor of husband’s property. The tribal women will get justice in the court of law.”

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