There Is No Honour In Killing
By Maanvender Singh
17 March, 2016
I am convinced that two segregations of caste and woman are primarily responsible for this decline of the spirit. These segregations have enough power to kill all capacity for adventure and joy- Lohia (1961)
In a constitutional democracy it is most distressing to see how marriage that is the private life event of two people, can be declared null and void by the arbitrary extra- legal norms, imposed through the notion of gender, caste, class, race and community. That in some cases also results in the gruesome killing of those who decline to follow such dictates. On 13 March, 2016, a similar crime was committed in Tirupur, Tamil Nadu, where a young couple was attacked publicly by group of hired men; resulting in the death of 22 year old V. Shankar and causing serious head injuries to his wife Kausalya. This brutal action was carried out on the direction of Shankar’s father-in law who was unhappy with the marriage, as Shankar was a dalit and the family belonged to a much forward Thevar community. The fact finding team that visited the crime scene, pointed out that the murder was pre- planned and Shankar was under the constant threat from his in -laws, highlighting to yet another case of honor killing. Such an atrocious incident is warning to others who dare to nurture any aspiration of having any sort of relation with the women outside from their caste. Moreover it conveys a terrible message to every couple that shows the temerity to love or marry outside their caste and how modernity has been disappointing to their aspirations; as irrespective of all the efforts caste has persisted, cultural beliefs and practices are upheld and further perpetuated.
On the other hand the public hacking of Shankar is not the first and last in the long line of atrocities carried out against dalits in the state of Tamil Nadu. Back in 2012, when a dalit boy had eloped with a girl from Vanniyar community, over 200 dalits houses were torched by an upper caste mob. In all this state has failed consistently to provide any protection to the community, maintaining the suspicious silence by shielding themselves against the legacy of Periyar. As for those who indulge in such dehumanizing activities have forgotten the fact that Periyar himself was a great supporter of inter- caste marriages. But clearly such proposition is antithetical to the idea of caste, which can survive only if a strict regime of endogamy is followed by imposing a ban on inter caste marriages and any altercation to that must be dealt with violence. Therefore it is necessary to restrain the right of individual in choosing their partner and control the decision of marriage to maintain the caste purity.
Concept of honor and shame
Ambedkar summed up the position quite succinctly that “caste is endogamy and endogamy is caste.” He was the first to point out the relation between sexuality and the social construction of caste system. That is caste is created and sustained by controlling and subjugating the women. Therefore prime reason for honor killing is the existence of gendered and patriarchal notion of shame in the society. This idea is regimented from one generation to other, where women are forced to embody the notion of honor and to defend that honor is a male prerogative. Further to maintain this false honor a code of conduct is spelled out for young women, policing their marriage and sexuality. It is the fear of losing this honor attached to the women that rationalizes any violent action under the patriarchal order. Therefore, the act of choosing their own partner raises the panic among the custodian of caste; particularly among the higher castes, who cannot digest the idea of their woman being married to a man from lower caste. However the violence is not just confined to the gruesome killing of young men and women but such false honour is invoked through daily acts of coercion, force and violence where choices are imposed onto the female members of the family in relation to their dressing, food they eat etc. (women are not allowed to eat non- vegetarian food). The sad part is that the institutions which compel women to be confined as a symbol of purity or impurity are politically patronized for instance Khap panchayat’s in Haryana or the moral policing of right wing outfits imposing the cultural nationalism and the dictates received from various religious institutions.
We cannot allow such feudal tendencies to prevail in a civilized society. No honor can be attached with killing of young men and women. Because there is no way a 22 year old Shankar could have dishonored anyone, except the gruesome aggressors who perceived that their honor was lost as their daughter was married to a dalit. Therefore it is important to the question the space that is occupied by the opposite gender by opposing the cultural and religious orthodoxy, to free women from gendered violence. Further to enact strict laws not just against the honour killings but against any practice that curtail the freedom of individual choice and then only we can protect young men and women who show the audacity of falling in love outside their caste and community.
Maanvender Singh,PhD Scholar, Department of History,Sikkim University, Gangtok.