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Honour Killing Is Not ‘Love’: Ram Gopal Varma Needs To Rethink His New Film

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On June 22, 2020, the Madras High Court acquitted Chinnasamy, who was the main accused in the Sankar honour killing case. The incident took place in 2016 and shook the conscience of the people in Tamil Nadu as well as outside. Sankar, a Dalit man, married Chinnasamy’s daughter, Kausalya, who belongs to the Thevar community. The couple got married despite facing much opposition. One day, they were attacked by armed men in broad daylight. Sankar succumbed to his injuries while Kausalya, after fighting for her life in the hospital, survived.

A District Sessions court in 2017, based on her statement and evidence gathered by the police, announced capital punishment for Chinnasamy and five men involved in the case.

Now, a division bench of Justice M. Sathyanarayanan and Justice M. Nirmal Kumar acquitted Chinnasamy of all charges and gave life imprisonment to the five men who were hired to kill the couple. This move was widely condemned by anti-caste activists because it leaves Kausalya vulnerable to more threats.

The reason why I brought this case up is that, apart from my intention to mention the horrifying travesty of justice, it was the same day Bollywood filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma decided to make a film about Pranay murder case.

I was going through Twitter when I saw the poster of his film Murder which depicts a father and daughter together with the caption, “This is going to be a heart-wrenching story based on the Amrutha and Maruthi Rao saga of the DANGERS of a father LOVING a daughter too much… Launching the poster of a SAD FATHER’S film on HAPPY FATHER’S DAY.”

Before that, he shared the pictures of the real Amrutha and her father Maruthi Rao, sharing that he intended to make a film about their life.

Amrutha’s husband Pranay, who was a Dalit, was brutally murdered in 2018. Amrutha was pregnant with their first child at the time. The case left her as well as the masses shaken. I remember the calls for justice for days, and the investigation led to Maruthi Rao and uncle Shravan Kumar.

RGV tweeted that the film will cover dilemmas “1. on limit of a father’s control over his child. 2. Should a daughter be ignored even if she’s presumably ignorant about what’s good for her? 3. Can it be justified to take someone’s life in order to better someone else’s life?”

Caste-based atrocities are often backed by the notion of chastity and purity that are fed by ego and patriarchal ideas that regard women as the “honour” of the family. Honour is defined as long she is a “good daughter” and a “good wife.”

The socially constructed idea that a woman loses her honour if she doesn’t adhere to the overall ideas of chastity is often used as a weapon to control her agency. Added to that, marginalised class or caste people are further dehumanised. This is probably why the man who married a women from a privileged caste is killed brutally; in some cases, both are killed.

Calling an accused’s act of violence as “love” only furthers the dehumanisation of the marginalised caste man who paid with his life. After all, every birth is accidental, and bigotry is taught by those around us for generations.

This year, Tamil film Draupathi, directed by Mohan G., garnered major success and it has a horrifying casteist storyline. It showed that marginalised caste men purposefully try to lure in privileged class women to increase their social status. Women are shown as properties that need to “saved” just like land. Amidst the rise in the number of honour killings, a movie like this added insult to the injury in a society that worships cinema and sees it as a medium of inspiration. Tamil Nadu, as a state, is known for people dressing up and imitating their heroes.

Honour killing has been reported in several parts of the country. In Kerala, a Dalit Christian man named Kevin was lynched for marrying out of caste. In 2018, a man murdered his daughter Swathi as well as Nandhish, a 25-year-old Dalit youth, for getting married and threw their bodies into a river in Tamil Nadu. During the lockdown, M. Sudhakar, a 24-year-old of the Oddar caste (classified under Most Backward Castes), was killed in similar circumstances.

Ram Gopal Varma sent out a series of tweets trying to defend his film, saying that it was too early to judge and that it was only “inspired by real life.”

At the same time, the girl who is featured in the poster has a black mole on her chin, which is similar to real-life Amrutha. RGV even shared the “real pic” along with his reel posters. More than anything else, in one of his posters, the girl looks manipulative and unapologetic, instead of loving. He kept reiterating in several tweets the film as a “sad father’s love” which led to violence. RGV also did not specify if he has the consent of the people involved to make the film, especially Amrutha and Pranay’s families.

Earlier this year, Maruthi Rao was found dead in his home, and as per reports, he died by suicide.

Since then, I began to notice a change in the tone of the people. Amrutha started facing dehumanization and was blamed for not “listening to her father.” She tried to take part in her father’s funeral but was shunned out. Coincidentally, Kausalya had met Amrutha after the latter’s husband Pranay was murdered in front of her.

It is no surprise that Ram Gopal Varma announced this film after all of that, but since there is an honour killing or caste-based atrocity attached to this film, it is something that the director should seriously reconsider unless he intends to propagate the same idea.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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