Honour killing has recently come to the attention of main stream media and its extensive coverage has brought the menace in front of the people of the country. Honour killing in simple words means an act of murder, done to preserve the honour of a family or a community. It is mostly prevalent in the rural India, where people are still living behind the cloak of superstitions and rigid caste order. In such a medieval social order the issue like same gotra marriage, inter-caste marriage and pre-marital sex are highly inflammatory which often results in conflict between families and communities. These subjects of same gotra marriage and inter-caste marriage are believed to bring dishonor to the family and the communities of those involved in it end up brutally murdering the couples, there by cleaning the stains of shame off the families involved. Moreover the people who perpetuate these crimes often fail to see their action as an act of crime but rather as an act of preserving family honour and repute.
What makes the usually peaceful and shy people of Indian villages to act in such brutal and mindless ways to kill their own children? The answer lies in the centuries old system and values of our ancient country. Some of them which I chose to discuss are as follows.
The Indian society and families are predominantly patriarchal in nature. The fathers of the house and other elders have an iron grip over the family. The wishes of the elders are respected and if the wishes are not carried out by the younger members of the family then the elders gets offended and the family looses respect in the eyes of their neighbors and fellow villagers. As such when young couples marry against the wishes of their parents it is considered as a grave insult to the family. The perceived insult to the family can be cleansed only in one way and that is the killing of the couples or most of the time the killing of the young bride. A young girl of a family is considered as a symbol of honour for the family and if she marries someone from another caste or does something which is vulgar and indecent to the ever prying eyes of the senior members of the family and the villagers then the honour is lost and to nullify the disrepute, the family is forced to kill the girl. Such are the ways of our ancient culture.
Rigid caste system
Caste system is deeply entrenched in the minds of people and in the social structure of India, specially that of rural India. The entire society is divided into castes and the so called higher caste people look down upon the lower caste people. The people belonging to the lower castes are generally from the weaker section of the society and thus whenever a person belonging to lower caste marries someone from the higher caste, it results in conflict as the higher caste people take it as an insult to their community. As such the whole community goes against the inter-caste couple and ultimately it results in the killing of the couple or the person from the lower caste.
Another important factor that plays an important role in honour killings are the dreaded Khap panchayats. The khap panchayats are basically a collection of patriarchal bodies, who act as moral police and self employed guardians of tradition and culture. These khap panchayats are extrajudicial bodies and have a large following of people. The khap panchayats get their support from the members belonging to their gotra, caste, communities and villages. They are highly repressive and patriarchal in nature. Most of the times the khap panchayats force the family of the young boys and girls, who have married in the same gotra, to disown the couple and in many cases they are compelled to kill them. There have been cases where the whole village was led by khap panchayats in killing innocent lovers. These are the people who influences and controls the actions of the simple people of the villages and in the name of protecting honour and tradition they are killing young couples. As long as these bodies continue to work without giving respect to the law of the land, the menace of honour killing will flourish.
Another aspect of seeing the problem is through the prism of law and order. In spite of all the factors of caste and culture, if the law and order had been efficient and in place then these brutal crimes couldn’t have taken place. The need of the hour is to have a revamped and efficient model of law and order in place, so that the law can protect the young couples and prevent such criminal acts from taking place. Moreover new laws are needed to make these crimes more seriously dealt and to make exemplary punishments.
These crimes have rocked the educated urban India. Although the educated Indians and the intellectuals criticize these mindless killings, it is shocking to see the escalating influence of honour killing in the urban India as well. A few incidents of honour killing have taken place in urban centers in Delhi and Tamil Nadu. Firm actions must be taken against the perpetrators of these crimes. Proper education should be imparted in the villages so that the mindset of the people can be changed. The khap panchayats should be properly monitored by the Police and law enforcing agencies should take care to protect the couples who are in danger. The caste differences should be mitigated through religious and social forums. Honour killing has put a shadow on the otherwise glorious and ancient culture of India and has stained the reputation of India as a modern secular nation. It is high time we make serious effort in curbing these crimes and in making India truly modern and free from such old evil hangovers of the medieval times.
By: Avinandan Choudhury