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