India must ask: where is the honour in killing?

June 25, 2010

Three men were arrested by Delhi police this week for “honour killings” days after the Supreme Court asked eight Indian states to stop these so-called “honour” killings, where family members, typically men, kill daughters and their husbands for apparently bringing dishonour to the family by marrying below their caste.

An Indian brideThe killings, in a posh neighbourhood in Delhi, brought the tragic and shameful story of honour killings closer home to Delhi residents, who had so far dismissed the rising instances of these killings as a feature of rural India, equating them to a more traditional and conservative India they claim not to inhabit.

The clash between tradition and modernity is not new and is not unique to India, where more than two-thirds of its population lives in rural areas, and where more than half the population is below the age of 25 years.

Satellite television, education and rising numbers of working women have all been blamed for an erosion of family values and the Indian ethos, and the corruption of its youth.

When did killing young women become a part of the Indian ethos? Why is punishment by death an admirable family value?

In a country where a majority of youngsters still have marriages “arranged” by their parents, caste and religion dominate matrimonial conversations.

Activists say despite growing modernisation — or perhaps, because of it — the number of honour killings has been rising steadily in the last few years, particularly in some northern and central Indian states, where village elders often order such killings.

Families don’t report these cases, and police are often loath to take action because they see them as little more than family disputes. And few politicians have spoken against them because caste can determine an election victory or loss.

So it was left to the Supreme Court to take a stand; the law minister and the prime minister have spoken of a bill to end such crimes and to crack down on village courts that endorse these killings.

But until we acknowledge that these are indeed heinous crimes, we only bring dishonour to ourselves and fail our youth, particularly our women.

4 comments

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I do not understand how Supreme Court or new law can help in such matters. It is an issue requires our leaders to denounce it publically. The youth in society are also required to understand the changing mindset of other young once in family especially of educated ladies who have entire world open before them. Such happening in family requires compassion and not frustration or imposition of our own will on young once. Do the so called honor of the perpetrators of such crime is restored by revenge killings? What they have got ultimately? In the present world, not even the deterrence for which they have taken such step …. !!!
A crime is a crime and the incidence being a heinous crime requires rigorous punishment. The punishment should not only to the perpetrators of crime but also to persons aiding and abetting such crime.

Posted by SatishChadha | Report as abusive

It’s funny that education could be held responsible for something as dis-honourable as killing one’s own children for loving (and hence marrying) another person. (Not that I approve of killing someone else’s children…), I fail to understand if the problems in this country can ever be counted down and then a solution be figured out.. Because every single thing, actually unnecessary silly stuff becomes worthy enough an issue to be shouted and screamed about, but something as crazy as this is a “tradition”. The only question that pops in my head over honour killing is how can one be so block-headed that they can so easily pass off a decision firstly, on someone else’s life, and whether they deserve to exist anymore or not. Well , it could be debated as countries kill spies, militants etc. but well then the debate is endless. Killing one’s own, for loving another human no matter what caste they may be, is the highest form of sickness that can ever prevail. I doubt it can ever be done away with. But I hope it is, very soon.

Posted by Anuja | Report as abusive

[...] have a more stratified social order than India, where religion and caste go hand in hand.  Reuters reports that so-called “honor killings” are on the [...]

I made a few calls to the Supreme Court of India today and guess what ?

The Supreme Court of India has just one general email address.

When I inquired from the Principal Private Secretary to the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India – he retorted with the standard PPS response;variations of which most Indians would have heard when trying to eke some functionality from the Indian system without paying a bribe – “If we had an email address, we would be flooded with emails and then what will we do?”

Some may consider this vigorous advocacy of snail mail symptomatic of the Indian judicary’s unwillingness to step into the light of day, but to me it comes through as, “Forget about all your words, shords and your facts, shacts, the whole thing is that ke bhaiyya sabse bada rupaiya”

Translation:”Brother, over here only money talks.”

We must all agree that enforcing snail mail in the days of email is a kind of brutality.

In Hyderabad, The Chief Justice does have email and last month I had to write him as follows :

Your honour,

If you have ever had the occasion to search for “Andhra Pradesh High Court” on the internet, then my appeal to and correspondence with your predecessor entitled “Andhra Pradesh High Court’s Pernicious Rebellion Against The Law” would not have escaped your notice.

With the benefit of hindsight, that account can reasonably be read today as a stunning narration of the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s slide with “minuscule” check or balance from delinquency to disgrace to depravity.

As I have detailed in my correspondence to the then Chief Justice, the AP High Court had very obviously and at every level prejudged my case, delayed, obstructed and perverted the course of justice.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court State Legal Services Authority conducted a time consuming, farcical and ultimately fruitless search for a competent counsel.

The judges in question stubbornly resisted giving me any impression that they had heard me, obstinately ignored my repeated requests for the assistance of a competent counsel, displayed no compunctions about heckling me in my defenseless state from the lofty position of the bench, took upon themselves the obligation of arguing the respondents’ case and produced a judgment that was completely at variance to the independent opinion sought and received by the High Court, the facts of my case and the RTI Act 2005.

The Hon’ble judge’s babble emanated despite the fact that that the only new fact that emerged during the hearing was that the Andhra Pradesh Government was forced to admit the exposure of its affidavit as a tissue of lies and brazen fabrications.

Your esteemed predecessor had an excellent opportunity and sacred obligation to mitigate this sordid situation and put the hearing back on its track.

Instead he actively participated in this rowdy violation of the principles of natural justice and due process

Not only did he assign the hearing of my case to a judge who is shown as being one rung junior to the judge against whom I had complained, he did not respond for my request for assistance for an appeal.

With the smug tunnel vision that is peculiar to successful technicians, lawyers are often advised , “When you cannot plead the law, plead the facts. When you cannot plead the facts, plead the law’.

To this wisdom, we in India, have added a more practical, subaltern twist. “When you can argue neither the facts or the law – start a riot.”

Blood may not have been shed, the courts may not have been interrupted, the television cameras may have been busy elsewhere, and our editorial class may be too cloddish to recognize it and only my life has been thwarted, but there can be little doubt in reasonable minds that the Andhra Pradesh High Court over a period of more than a year, comprehensively and at every level disgraced itself by mauling the idea of due process in order to pervert the course of the law and to thwart justice with a clear motive to let the powerful respondents off the hook.

Extremists almost reflexively accept responsibility for their heinous acts.

But despite the fact that I have complained to the President of India, that office in an act of utter depravity, has not only ignored my complaint but has gleefully elevated the delinquent former Chief Justice to the Supreme Court.

Till date, Andhra Pradesh High Court has shown no signs of the self correcting conduct that society routinely expects from erring human beings.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court has not given any sign that it has recognizes and regrets its reprehensible delinquency.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court has shown no rectitude, remorse or reform that will restore the process of justice.

In other words the Andhra Pradesh High Court does not appear to possess any power, procedure or compunction to recover from its woefully compromised state.

It appears to not have the conscience, character or potency to re establish its shattered independence and autonomy.

There can be no question that by recounting this rowdyism of the Andhra Pradesh High Court and Bar and its toadying, symbiotic relationship with the Executive and Administration, I have performed an extraordinary service for the cause of an authentic, autonomous and vibrant judiciary.

At a time when even a clearly compromised and cowering Rashtrapathi Bhavan has chosen to stay mute, and lawless extremisms are bubbling everywhere, I have performed a rare service to the idea of equity under the rule of law by not leaving you in any doubt about the odiousness of the earlier hyper activism and current inertness of the Andhra Pradesh High Court .

This inertness of the Andhra Pradesh High Court is clearly intended to be punitive because I continue to suffer the brazen violation of my rights, denial of information and fair access to institutions of redressal and remedy.

I now request you to kindly use your authority to take whatever action that you may consider fit to make amends for this barbarism.

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,etc

When I called the office to follow up, I was welcomed with yet another zen moment about how the Indian system functions.

The same officer who had conducted that time consuming, farcical and infructuous search for competent counsel had been moved up to the position of Principal Secretary to the Hon’ble Chief Justice.

No surprise then that he averred that he had not received my email.

Close to a month gone by now and I sent him another email.

This was forwarded to the Registrar Judicial.

This official does have an email, but it does not function.

So he is another believer in the eternal virtues of snail mail.

That is when I called the Supreme Court.

Where is the pursuit of justice in all this, you ask ?

C’mon, if you want focus get yourself a camera.

Moral: When duly constituted institutions fail to deliver, citizens will be driven to do their own thing.

Posted by divakarssathya | Report as abusive

The issue of social acceptance of inter-cast or intra-Gotra marriage and honor killing are two separate issues and required to be dwelt separately. The heinous crime of honor killing is absolutely deplorable. However, the larger social issue of intra-gotra marriage is a debatable point.
Hinduism is a way of life or a tradition having its origin since time immemorial without any particular follower or deity describing it completely. It origin or flows from the text of four Vedas in which the almighty is one having no specific face or depiction. The Vedas are followed by Purans. The Purans are followed by Smritis (e.g. Manu Smritis) which written by specific ancient souls by their remembrance. The Smritis are followed by Shruties (e.g. Ramayan, Mahabharata etc.) which are chants of nomadic tribes to describe valiance and nobleness of their Kings. In Hindu mythology any character, living being, deity or object which brings you near the right path of social living is being worshiped by different sects. These sects have their own set rules and norms. The inhabitants of civilization Indus Valley and beyond centered on Gangatic plains was termed by Greeks as

Posted by SatishChadha | Report as abusive