A horrible day in Haryana, and a challenge to India’s police

May 16, 2008

I had a truly depressing day in Haryana this week, reporting on the murder of a 21-year-old girl and her 22-year-old boyfriend .

The bodies of Sunita Devi (L), 21, and her partner Jasbir Singh, 22, lie on the ground after they were killed by villagers in an “honour killing” in Ballah village in the northern Indian state of Haryana May 9, 2008.It was sad enough to meet a village where many appeared proud of this brutal murder. To come home and see the photos of Sunita and Jasbir, laid out outside her father’s house for all the world to see, was heartbreaking.

Fear still stalks the villages of Balla and Machhroli where the murders took place. Jasbir’s family have been threatened by other villagers that they will also be killed if they speak to the media or if they refuse to drop charges.

Few of them had faith in the police. They said they were “too poor to pay a bribe”.
Five people have been arrested, including the girl’s father, uncle and two cousins. I met another cousin, right on the spot where the bodies were laid out, who started by trying to intimidate us and ended up saying he was proud of the murder.

In a tiny police post, a corporal told me such cases rarely if ever reach prosecution. “Witnesses back out,” he told me. “The entire village is on one side”.

Reuters India Bureau Chief Simon Denyer (L) speaks to the villagers after a panchayat, or village council meeting, at Balla village in the northern Indian state of Haryana May 13, 2008. REUTERS/Vijay Mathur As I looked further into the story, I found that love liaisons like Sunita and Jasbir’s, between a couple from the same village, were a direct threat to the upper caste old men of Haryana.

A girl who dares marry against their will, and stay in her own village, might just mount a claim to a portion of the family’s land, as she is legally entitled to do.

Murders, so-called “honour killings”, are becoming increasingly common in Haryana, although rarely reported, sociologists say.

This is a state of rising wealth, but one where female foetuses are routinely aborted, where women appear to count for nothing, where an ancient patriarchal system has combined with a modern macho culture of the jeep, gun and bottle of rum.

Politicians say almost nothing against honour killings, police do little more. This time, I hope it will be different, that the police will show a little more determination to punish the culprits, and protect a family that has already suffered far too much.

On past experience, it is hard for me to be optimistic.


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Well, as am typing this comment, the security-word, am asked to feed-in is I quote “LOVE”. Its such a gruesome pic, dunno what to write. I feel, the points raised – the culture of gun, jeep and rum is very true, another thing is the youths in Haryana villages are a frustrated lot, they are rich, hardly educated, mostly-unemployed, sexually frustrated owing of course to a serious lack of women. So, they just can’t stand a love story in their own backyard..thats too involving their sisters and all. Authorities as always are a useless lot, well I feel such incidences will only increase if female foeticide and social taboos are not removed in this county. After all, World is made of nothing but a battle of male-ego isn’t it..in India it seems they will end up killing all the women, and of course in the process themselves too.

Posted by Sceptic Indian | Report as abusive

It is such a shock that the people in the village actually think that they got rid of the blot. It may sound as if this is expected in such areas…. but the word must spread to raise awareness amongst the authorities nearby (and not just the villagers).

Simon, I know its depressing especially when you sign of on a not so optimistic views….. but I think such reportings much continue to raise awareness. And you’re doing all a great service.

Thanks !

P.S. its such an irony that while posting this… the anti-spam word I get is ‘love’

Posted by whizkid1980 | Report as abusive

These incidents present a horrific face of the traditional Indian society. The Indian rural society is basically a male dominated one. Incidents of rape, torture often go unnoticed in villages and interior part of villages. The men in villages are mostly rich, unemployed and lack social culture to deal with the women. a female to them is a soft and easy target to take out frustration on. You can see daily incidents of molestation, Eve-teasing in local buses and trains by the rural commuters. They are a frustrated, sycotic and a hypocratic lot. These men will rather tease a woman to hilt and hold their held high in front of the society. These pictures represent just that sort of mentality. Other women in the family are just non-existent. This cruelty in the name of “Honour Killings” must be presented with a death sentence by the law.

It is also hearteng to see the inactive element on part of the police in these areas. Most of the recruits also come form the same background and are unwilling to help the victims in such cases.

Where are the activists of Women Commission and NGOs availaing government aid. The same inactive attitude was seen in the Scarlett Keeling rape and murder case in Goa.

Horrific and shameful act in the world’s largest democarcy.

Posted by Peeyush Khandelwal | Report as abusive

The deep roots of Hindu caste hierarchy are no small shackles to go. Added to this, the lowly stature of women in India means we are still a long way to go.
India has tried to show her modern face with galloping stride in industry and technology, but the fact is – just next to this modern India, lives another India still living in 17th century.
Unfortunately, only that old India can heal herself. Authorities are good scape-goats to be blamed each time, but that is not going to help.

Thanks Simon, for bringing this news to light, hope people atleast grieve the couple.

Posted by Virendra | Report as abusive

as an indian i really feel ashamed ,horified at such gruesome incidents.india might progress at 8 to9% but till the mindset changes especially in the north of india where there is still bias against women and where female infanticides are quite high – haryana as a state where men are increasingly marrying women from south [read kerala] -dont understand have no problems, but will kill their own people in name of caste.
haryana govt.should stop boasting about their progress and focus on their people not embracing a taliban like attitude

Posted by dinesh n. | Report as abusive

…and What all these bureaucrats are doing..all these politicians, DM of city, police officials and above of all PEOPLE, these poor people digging their own graveyard for themselves and sooner they will sexually asault their own sisters/ mothers …and that will be the height of HIPOCRATIC society of India..and its getting on verge of it…BETTTER THEY KILL THOSE POLITICIANS WHO EAT THEIR EARNING LIKE TAPEWORM still they finds their own sister, daughters to assualt show their impotent men-hood…PITTY on them

Posted by Aditya | Report as abusive

The best way to bring peace to India is to convert all north Indians to Christians. Hinduism never improves the status of any Indian. Over past 2000 years hindus have been still kept as a low caste people and that’s why such things happen in North India.

South India is flourishing as South Indians adapt to Christianity quickly. In 50 years, South will overtake North in prosperity, wealth and health.

Time to think now. Indians !!

Posted by Robert Murugan | Report as abusive

Yes simon, you are absolutely correct. But do we just blame these illitrate, incompetent villagers for perpetrating such henious crime? I do not remember or recollect one politician who has ever promised to wipe out the evil if he is voted to power. No one dares open their mouths against such practices. The governments just claim innocence because there’s no witness. But isn’t their other ways to get justice for women who cannot live with the freedom our constitution has provided them? If these things keep happening in an otherwise so-called developed state like Harayana, I am sure we will b back to the days of corporal punishments by tribes for committing small mistakes.

Posted by Ashima Mahindra | Report as abusive

Thanks Simon,for bringing up this story as there are so many similar stories still to be written.

I am requesting on behalf of all the people in this world who would like to see some action taken on these type of cases.Where are you all ngo’s,women organizations,all preachers,and all researchers?Attitudes can be rigid but they can change if all of us try.It will take time so keeping the faith and hoping for the best.

Posted by FAITH | Report as abusive

Until the biological mother and father know how to love their own child and be a real mother/father to their child, these arrogant self rightous scumbags will continue to murder their children and think it their right. They will continue to blight their own society with such ignorance and disgusting psychotic behaviour. Until the stupidly ignorant understand that there is NO HONOUR in killing, and those that commit such murderous acts are the ones putting more shame on the family, these sorts of people will always be deemed to be stupid, ignorant and/or psychotic to the outside world. Since when do ‘real men’ murder unborn children, defenceless pregnant women? This person’s arrogance is equal to their superior narcissistic stupidity. At least this poor woman, man and baby won’t continue to live in such a dispicable society. Dear mother of the young girl, where were you? Why didn’t you try to stop this to your own daughter? Is your love for your children (if you have any) conditional only? And what about your grandchild? Are you happy that your own narcissistic psychotic murderous husband killed your defenceless grandchild? I am surprise this town is actually reproducing! At the rate it is going it will kill itself off once the women start making choices for themselves. Perhaps that is a good thing – it is one way for these scumbags to remove themselves from the gene pool. Remember Balla and Machhroli, as two of the most murderous and medievel towns on this Earth where unborn babies are freely murdered and mothers and fathers are too ignorant and stupid to comprehend what being a parent means and are so irrationally psychotic to stop their murderous tendencies. May the bad Kharma they have inflicted on their own kin and the township return to them.

Posted by Conscientious Observer | Report as abusive

I hope this horrific incident will at least correct the impression that honor killings are somehow solely an Islamic phenomenon. Instead it should illustrate how they are actually a brutal means of social control in highly patriarchic communities. The idea that replacing the religion of these communities, as someone has suggested, will somehow resolve the problem is naive. Instead more should be done to enforce the law and raise educational standards.

Posted by Shahid | Report as abusive

We are living in the 21st century and people still behave like in the darkest ages, not even two hours from New Delhi! To keep quiet at this horrific ignorant behavior of the village community in Balla makes us guilty too. The murderers of this abdominal heinous crime have to be prosecuted to the full extend of the law, demonstrating that a modern India will not accept such gruesome customs anymore. Local police, regional politicians and federal officials will be judged from a worldwide audience by their action.

Posted by Horst Schmitt | Report as abusive

Any comment should also be sent to the Chief Minister of Haryana Shri Bhupinder Singh Hooda at http://www.haryana-online.com/Government  /chief_minister.htm

with kind regards

Posted by Horst Schmitt | Report as abusive

www.haryana-online.com/Government/chief_ minister,Shri Bhupinder Singh Hooda

Posted by Horst Schmitt | Report as abusive

These man and villagers suffer from serious mental illness.

Posted by Ellison Baxter | Report as abusive

Haryana is an extremely backward state where roles of men and women are concerned. This northern state of India is probably the closest to the muslim honor killing phenomenon. There is much violence and repression of women and girls in this state. It’s really a shame that this nonsense is allowed to go on. There was another gruesome incident of killings of a couple sanctioned by their own relatives in Canada.

Posted by joyce | Report as abusive

Comment for Shahid:
Yes honor killing is not solely an Islamic phenomenon. There are other moronic communities as well. In the Middle East, it is the highly educated and the uneducated who support this, so it has nothing to do with education. Perhaps the fear of spending one’s life in jail or getting hanged could do the work. Such people will get it once they and their supporters rot in the punishment reserved for them.

Posted by joyce | Report as abusive

I can only appreciate the hard work journlist like you are putting to bring the truth. These things will not stop until educated people get united and fight uneducated moran’s, evil, barbaric, inhumans can do something like this and get away.

Please cover more stories like this in India, and help people who cannot fight the system. Destroy India’s image by bringing truth out. Indian government will do anything to preserve their dignity and economy, push them to take some action.

Posted by Neo | Report as abusive


In India, psychological fabric of such intolerance is very deep.
This is an outrageous murder reported.
There are,
countless murders that get never reported.
countless physical assaults that remain within houses.
countless psychological threats, abuses, blackmails that are never expressed..

This is not an isolated event in Haryana my dear friend, this is widespread across the nation. Not restricted to poor and downtrodden but prevalent amongst elite and rich.

Civilsation is a slow process.. unfortunately has been very slow in India…
Probably as generations change, things might improve.. say 100 years from now? At least I hope so for the sake of my country…

Posted by Chethak B | Report as abusive


Posted by Mohandas K Gandhi | Report as abusive

Astounding that such cowards who’d strangle a pregnant woman and creep up on the back of another man can consider themselves to have fulfilled their duties.

Its frightening to consider what the playwright Terence said, ‘”Nothing human is alien to me” in this light. How lowly an act to have commited though. You have to wonder at first why this couple stayed near these other people, I suppose they wanted to make a stand for themselves. /That/ is fulfillment of a person’s duties; standing up for yourself in the face of such a horrible thing.

Posted by nygdan | Report as abusive