Eight village councillors face execution over 'honour' killings
More than two dozen others jailed for life for part in 1991 murder of the three children
By Dean Nelson, Daily Telegraph - November 18, 2011 4:09
Eight village councillors have been sentenced to death for the murders of a 14-year-old girl, her boyfriend and his friend in India's most severe punishment for a so-called "honour" killing. More than two dozen other villagers implicated in the deaths in 1991 were jailed for life.
Campaigners welcomed the sentences as a strong message that India will not tolerate "village justice." An estimated 1,000 young men and women are killed every year for breaking caste codes on who they can marry.
The three victims of the killings 20 years ago were a girl named Roshni, a member of the higher Jat caste near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, her boyfriend Vijendra, a member of the untouchable Jatav caste, and his friend Ram Kishan, who helped them elope.
They returned three days later to try to win the approval of their families but were seized by members of the village "panchayat" council, which was dominated by members of the Jat caste, who were angry at their relationship.
They were tried by a caste council, which included elected village councillors, elders and women and children.
According to the victims' families, they were beaten and tortured throughout the hearing. One relative said their genitals had been set on fire. The hearing went on through the night and heard pleas from the girl to be allowed to remain with her boyfriend, and a promise from Vijendra that he would leave the village if he was spared.
But the couple and their friend were taken to a tree and hanged from a branch and their bodies were burned to destroy the evidence.
Their families were also beaten as they tried to save their children.
Delays in setting a trial date meant 16 of those accused died before the judgment. Fiftythree were originally charged for their role in the killings, including one of Roshni's younger brothers who will be sentenced in a juvenile court. Almost all of those sentenced to death are in their 60s.
Ranjana Kumari, a campaigner against honour killings, said the sentence sent out a strong message.
"It will set an example in several other cases. Adults have a right to choose their life partners," she said.
She said the victims were often teenage girls who had forgotten the power that caste holds in Indian villages.
Families whose daughters elope with lower caste boys are regarded as sullied and to have lost their caste status. Their other children are stigmatized and find it impossible to find suitors for marriage.
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