By Ridhima Aneja,
Edited by Anandita Malhotra, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
2007- Two youngsters Manoj and Babli were brutally murdered for falling in love, eloping and marrying though they belonged to the same caste. Their bodies were thrown into a canal,and the crime had the approval of the khap of their village Karora in the Kaithal district of Haryana. Flexing muscle and money, Babli’s family manipulated the police and did not allow investigations to reach any logical conclusion.
2014- A Delhi University girl, Bhavna got married to Abhishek, a boy of a different caste and community and was murdered by her own parents which was yet another shocking incident of Honour killings in the country.
A lot has also been heard about the popular Nitish Katara murder case, where Nitish was murdered for marrying a girl of another community.
The question to be answered is how far does the enactment of laws and amendments of the constitution go in a country like India where precisely at one hand the population of the metropolitan cities study subjects of human rights, feminism, liberty, socialism and secularism and on the other hand the majority population is still cemented to primitive and benighted thoughts and ideals.
This is unfortunately the truth about India our country- a country of many faces, guises, skins and aspects. So a khap panchayat is basically, a self-elected village council comprising of male village elders who perpetuate values that, in turn, covertly endorse killings in the name of saving the ‘family’s honour’. In rural India and middle class urban India, the onus for upholding the family morality falls on the women in the family – the daughter, daughter-in-law, wife and mother. By daring to choose a life partner, other than the one chosen for her by her family or by committing adultery, she violates the family’s honour. Both she and her lover face death as a consequence.
The panchayats claim that it is not they who are responsible for such killings but the families who fail to prevent their daughters and sisters and wives from interacting with men, which results in shame and ostracisation by the community.
There has been a perceptible spurt in the incidents of “honour killing” and surprisingly the cases to be reported are not only from states like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana but also from Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and the West Bengal.
As the khap panchayats shamelessly claim that the shame is not on them but on the women of the household.
Having a constitution which guarantees Liberty of “ thought, expression , belief , faith and worship” are we even standing by the Laws laid by the architects of the constitution and our political forefathers? What has undoubtedly led us down is our current politicians and political system which at all times has led down the people of this nation when it has come to taking a decision and straight action towards such a sensitive issue. Vote bank politics and communal polarisation lies at the very bottom of this issue. These Khaps and other village councils guarantee the party their votes hence the party coming into power never readily takes an action regarding issues such as these which have taken so many lives till date in the name of “JUSTICE”. If the political class dithers, the police too , turn lenient in enforcing the rule of law.
There is undoubtedly a burning need for a special legislation against killings followed by effective implementation to fight this medieval scourge. Unless the fear of law is drilled into the minds of law breakers, many more Manoj and Babli would suffer. Many more Bhavna’s will be strangled. And many more cases shall remain pending for many years as that of Nitish Katara.
With the deepening of the Indian democracy and development of the nation, the young generation is unwilling to surrender their choices to conservative forms of authority and to unquestioning culture of subservience. In a century where we talk about merging “global” boundaries , have we ever thought about merging the boundaries of 29 states and the 7 union territories and act and behave as a singular nation. Have we ever concentrated on how in these states each community and even a singular family live without any divides? We are not talking of a utopia; we are talking of a more united and progressive nation. The dust on this issue will now settle when we realise that the cancer of patriarchy, dirty politics, true justice reside in our own society and we are ready to shun them irrevocably.
Ridhima Aneja is a third year student pursuing B.COM (Hons.) from Sri Venkateswara College, University Of Delhi. She has an eye for perfection and detail and is a girl who never settles for mediocrity. Being an optimist and a work enthusiast, she aims to become habitual to achieving her goals and aspirations even while facing complexities in both professional and personal fronts. An aspiring diplomat and lawyer, blessed with a dauntless personality, she enjoys corporate law but her true interest lies in India’s relations with other countries, especially Pakistan and working for women rights. She aims to be a catalyst in making every Indian household a violence free home. She identifies herself with being a part of an emerging world community and become integral enough that her actions contribute to building this community’s values and practices. A girl who is strictly driven by her passions, she is also a national level debater , a skilled dramatist and a self proclaimed dancer .