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‘Honor’ In killing

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

04 June, 2012

A secular democratic constitution in India has not guaranteed its implementation whenever our ‘social fabric’ is under ‘attack’ and popular ‘culture’ is threatened by incidents which many term as ‘western onslaught’ on our ‘moral values’. The writ of the constitution therefore does not run when society is in conflict with modern values and individuals who dare to embrace these values face threat to their lives. Killings for the ‘honor’ have become regular now in India which is struggling to find its place among the comity of ‘civilised’ and ‘developed’ nations. Many of these stories are being put under petty criminal category thus ignoring the ugly reality of caste prejudices prevailing in our society. May be it is the new mechanism of protecting the interest of powerful feudal elements in our society who rules us and yet unable to change themselves according to democratic secular modern values which respect the choices and identity of an individual.

Honored killing is a crime against modern human values which respect dignity of individuals and their rights to have a life on their own. Hence it is not a crime done by an individual but an idea based on age old nations of superiority of race and caste which does not consider a woman equal to man and decide her destiny. It is an idea which does not believe in giving space to individuals to decide about their destiny. It does not even allow them to explain their action. If is simply brutal and dictatorial in nature. Hence, it is certainly much bigger crime than what an ordinary criminal could do as it involves all those who believe in superfluous racial philosophy where intermingling of different communities by way of marriage must not only be disowned but also discouraged.

One cannot expect any reform from the political class as it thrive on the ‘majoritarian’ sentiments where any assertion of individual identity against the prevailing customs and traditions is considered an onslaught on the culture. Hence they resort to usual rhetoric that the incident as the internal matter of the community and let the law take its own course.

The power of this primitive idea comes from the ‘collective will’ of those who flourish on the ignorance of the people. They emerge from the ‘collective identity’ of the people in our villages now commonly known as Khaps. Hence despite completely illegitimate in their nature they wield enormous power from people’s support to maintain status quo as any change would threaten their very existence and that is why that idea has to be brutally suppressed and where needed need to be eliminated without any remorse. They are the law themselves.

When everything is politics then the biggest casualty would be the rule of law. It would not be an exaggeration to say that though India has a secular democratic constitution it is. And our political laws and constitution remain helpless to this and it should remain our biggest concern. There is no war against it. Today, the identity politics has far reaching impact as it fetch good votes and is your vehicle to power. Therefore, political parties are ready to condone it as these communities remain ‘ideal’ to their way to seat of power.

It is here, we are disturbed in the inability of our law enforcing agencies to protect individuals who need their support. How can the writ of constitution run large in society where violation of laws means your strength? How do you promote idea of equality and justice where these primitive ‘values’ marketed by not just political parties but also by corporations just to increase their access to the masses. The fact is that honored killing is the direct outcome of gender discrimination in our society and existing patriarchy..

Our state apparatus has never been secularized and democratic. That is why people who need protection and support of the system find it difficult to approach authorities because of fear of their antipathy. Several years back a boy from Balmiki community in Delhi fell in love with a girl who happened to be from a upper caste Jat family. Both of them ran away from their respective homes and got married in the court. Immediately after the incident when the families came to know about the incidents, the Jats attacked the village of Balmikis in a Delhi suburban area and demolished their houses. They threatened the parents of the boy with dire consequences if the girl was not produced before them. The girl’s parents filed case of abduction against the boy’s family and the police starting humiliating them. Some of us decided to form a committee for the protection of the boy and met the police officials in Delhi to protect the family of the boy as well as other Balmiki families in that region. When we met a senior police officer he said that it was a ‘social’ problem and added that we should not to take it as an ‘administrative’ problem. ‘You see policemen do also have castes and most of the Delhi police personnel hail from the Jat, Gujjar and other communities from Western Uttar-Pradesh and Haryana. This lower staff of ours has its own social values and would go by the social norms.’ The officer suggested that we should engage with communities and work for social change.

It is shocking that this view point comes from a senior official who is given responsibility to uphold the law. I said,’ Sir, ‘why cannot you tell your junior officers to follow the law of the land and protect the innocent.’ Despite his assurance, things did not change. The girl was put under tremendous pressure where she changed her statement many time. The social activists were not there to follow it. The fear of ostracisation and dislocation from the village was so powerful that the family of the boy did not want any outside intervention. They tried their best to fight in the court but the reality is that it was clearly a war among the unequal and finally we heard they reached some compromise and do not want to talk much about it.

In the west, honored killing is basically closely linked to the Islamic values in certain countries where the family has protection law if they kill their children to ‘protect’ their ‘honor’. The fact is that we are no better in India though we have the protection of the law yet it remains highly ineffective in dealing with the issue. Any marriage without consent of the parents is considered an embarrassment and humiliation. Parents do not marry their child; instead they marry with power and prestige. The terms may change, the glamour may be there but ultimately the Indian marriages are big fad and an impediment in the way of choice of an individual.

The question is how can fight against such atrocious primitive idea. Will mere constitutional provision work in protecting the youngsters against brutal killings? Why are we unable to challenge our social practices? Is it the fear of isolation in community and society that compel us to succumb to their pressures? If we want to fight against this practice then who will initiate the process? Once we fight against honored killing which are actually racial in nature as it is caste based violence, the forces of the status quo will be in action. Yes self arranged honored marriages have the potential to make many workless, all those who thrive on it, but definitely they will revive our love and give honor to individual. Nothing is more enlightening and satisfying than human freedom. The so-called freedom that we achieved from the British was a political freedom. We have not yet won our battle for individual freedom and their right to choose their aith as well as their partners. India has a long way to go to be included in the category of nations which can truly claim to be civilized nation as it has not yet been able to protect those individuals who chose to live together despite all the protest from the society. A society can not be bigger than the choices of two individuals to come together. This is the biggest challenge that we face today in India where the individuals have to face the might of society based on primitive socio-cultural taboos termed as ‘values’ which violate basic principles of human rights and human dignity. Let us demolish it to ensure a dignified and honored life for our children.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at www.manukhsi.blogspot.com


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