Honour killings in India

Honour killing is an act of murder by members of the family. This would be the immoral conduct of the members of the family belief in caste and gotras above one’s life. It is done to remove a family member’s dishonour and shame. The male or any member of the family kills the person who doesn’t match their social standing. It might even be a pre-planned murder, the key reasons are caste and religion. Even after 74 years of Independence, people still believe in the superiority of caste above life. India is a democratic country where all people have the right to equal treatment and the right to life.

‘Honor killings are not new to the rural India especially in the regions of Hariyana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. But then such cases are not just restricted to the rural areas. They are also heard of in our capital and in the southern states like Kerela, Tamil Nadu etc. The Aarushi Talwar Case and the killing of Kuldeep and Monica are speculated to be such killings.

According to the ‘conservative’ khap panchayat, marriage between people of the same village is considered incest as they are siblings and hence these marriages are not valid. So the panchayat orders the murder of the couple and hangs their body in the village crossing as an example to other straying couples.

In India, with its patriarchal society, women are considered as property and the vessel of family’s honor. And any act which might blot the family’s prestige renders an absolute right to the male members to murder the girl, undo her wrongs and win back the honor.

Such crimes as well as such criminals have been breeding under the political blessings of the political parties mainly interested in the vote banks of these villages and the support of the khap panchayat. 

On the other hand Gotra means:
A Gotra is the lineage or clan assigned to a hindu at birth. Gotra is the Sanskrit term for a much older system of tribal clans. The Sanskrit term “Gotra” was initially used by the Vedic people for the identification of the lineages. Generally, these lineages mean patrilineal descent from the sages or rishis in Brahmins, warriors and administrators in Kshatriyas and ancestral tradesmen in Vaishyas.

It can be seen that marriage of a person who is the sapinda of the other is considered invalid because marriage between such close relatives is unacceptable in the society and comes within the purview of prohibited relationships. Also marriage between closely related persons is not advisable as it leads to inbreeding depression
But in the case of the gotras, the lineage of a person is traced back to a single rishi and hence another person belonging to the same gotra is considered a sibling. From a scientific point of view this doesn’t seem to make sense as it is virtually impossible in today’s age to confirm that we have an unbroken ancestral lineage to one of the eight rishis.
In order to find a solution for such killings, it is necessary to analyze it from the very core. The very root of such an attitude towards marriage in the same ‘gotra’ lies in the fact that incest is considered as a taboo in our culture. The Hindu Marriage Act of 1954 bars marriage between sapindas-people within the third generation in the line of ascent through mother, and fifth generation in the line of ascent through father. In addition to this it also bars marriage between certain ‘degrees of prohibited relationships’, including those between sisters and brothers. Thus, the law lays down the ingredients for a valid marriage and excludes marriage between close relatives.

It can thus be seen that in our culture people are made conscious of their relations with the siblings from the very beginning. Even a mere thought of a matrimonial relation with a close relative is an impure thought, so vile that it’s an unforgivable offence. And this feeling is buried deep within the mind.
Hence it is this high level of consciousness that when marriage between people belonging to the same gotra is heard of, it creates indignation and anger in the minds of the family members as well as the society. The society goes further and boycotts the family which aggravates the situation to such an extent that the males in the family don’t seem to mind killing the couple in order to restore their prestige in the society. 
Provisions in the Indian Law:
The Indian legislation seems to have finally awoken to this problem after it has come into the limelight and people are speaking up against such cruelty. Finally, after the killings, according to the home minister P Chidambaram, the UPA led central government proposed to amend the Indian Penal Code and make Honor Killing a ‘distinct offence’; although how that will make any difference to the present condition still needs to be scrutinized as honor killing amounts to murder which is punishable under law.

In addition to this, the nature of the crime makes it virtually impossible to track the victim. This is because, usually a huge mob is sent after the couple to be pelted by stones and to be killed. Hence no definite accused can be found. The dominance enjoyed by the khap panchayat in the village and its pressure on the police unables them to function properly and carry on the investigation. Most of the cases are not even filed with the police and are hushed up by the family and the panchayat.    
The government has also made proposals to revoke the 30 days notice period presently required under the Special Marriage Act for inter-community marriages, because that time is misused by families to track down, kill and forcibly separate couples.

The solution to this problem mainly lies in the eradication of myths in the minds of people. They need to be educated with the provisions given in the Hindu Marriage Act and what kinds of marriages are actually considered invalid. Since the concept of Gotras and Sapindas are different from each other, it should be explained to them.

Khap Pachayats should at last be ripped out of all its power so that it is unable to wrongly influence the naïve people and to instigate them to commit such inhuman acts.

It is time India finally developed in the real sense. Building malls and increasing the standard of living of the common man is not really development. Cases such as these show that more than half of the Indians still lead lives within the strong crutches of caste system and even today youths don’t have the power to make decisions regarding their own lives. To see that even today, people blindly commit such barbaric crimes and consider it as an act of sanctifying the impure shows that India has really not modernized.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

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