02 June, 2010– Much as the name sounds- murders to save one’s honor. Murder of one upon whom he/she trusted the most, loved the most, and most importantly by its relatives for whom their honor is more beloved than their own beloved. Honor killing is not rare. People are sometimes murdered in Northern India (mainly in the Indian state of Punjab, Rajasthan, but Haryana and Bihar as well) for marrying without their family’s acceptance, in some cases for marrying outside their caste (Jat or Rajput) or religion. Among Rajputs, marriages with other caste male/female instigate killings of the married couple and family. This is unique form of honour killing related to the militant culture of ethnic Rajputs, who, despite the forces of modernization and the pressures of decolonization, subscribe to medieval views concerning the “preservation” of perceived “purity” of their lineage.
With modernization rate of love marriages might have gone up in the metro cities but reality remains contrary in many villages of other states. Honor killings where the person is killed by his own kin or family members is still very common in many areas. The question is why such a heinous crime is committed? Many women activist says that its done in order to save family from shame and embarrassment. Many a time such deaths are not reported by the family members for obvious reasons. Thus a large number of honor killing remain unreported which are majorly done either due to inter caste marriages or marriages of people belonging to same gotra, in India. Because of widespread prevalence of patriarchy and casteism, and low social status of women in Haryana, rural society in the state is widely perceived as one of the most regressive in India.
On 29th March a sessions court in Karnal, Haryana imposed a death sentence on five people for their role in the murder in June 2007 of young couple, Manoj and Babli of Kaithal district. Despite the Haryana High court imposing police protection for the couple they were possibly murdered on 15th June 2007 after they were forcibly dragged out of Haryana roadways bus and later forced to drink poison by Babli’s family. Their bodies were found in the canal with both their hands and feet tied. Their only fatal misgiving was they had married despite belonging to the same gotra and same village for which they were ordered to be killed by Khap Panchayat. Such so called honor killings continued to be carried out in Haryana with the sanction or decree from Khap Panchayat. Barely days after the court took a strong view against Khap Panchayat’s decree, a “ Mahapanchayat” held in Kurukshetra district of Haryana on 13th april’10 demanded an amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, thus asking for a ban on marriages within same gotra and same villages. The ‘Khap-heads’ also brazenly called for donations to support those who were found guilty in Manoj- Babli murder.
In 2009, Ved Pal in Kaithal district was killed not because he had violated any so called gotra but because he and Sonia had married on their own and without the sanction of Khap Panchayat. The social legitimacy of honor killings, Khaps have been strengthened by mere absence of formal institutions of Panchayati Raj in rural areas. This combined with the fact that Khaps have been trapped by political parties for building a sizeable ‘vote bank’ has only ensured that there is very little loosening of hold on the Khaps. Even in places where Panchayati Raj institutions are present, they are reduced to carrying out civil work while social issues continue to take a backseat. State Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has refused to act against the Khaps and neither has the state administration shown due diligence in bringing the perpetrators of caste violence to justice. As the case of Manoj-Babli shows, Khaps will not wither away, but a joint effort by civil society, judiciary and a more active polity can be helpful in halting such heinous and barbaric practices.
The writer is a student of III year, Amity Law School, Delhi. She possesses keen interest in analyzing the socio-political aspects of society, trying to make changes with every possible effort.