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Honour Cast Away ("There Would Be No Honor Killings. " TEHELKA)


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Honour cast away

There would be no honour killings if India were a casteless society, says UDIT RAJ

Khushboo and Shobha, two sisters from Wazirpur in Delhi, were shot dead by their own brother. Monika Chaudhary, from the same village, also married a boy from another caste – and though both visited each other’s house after their marriage, they had to bear the taunts of the villagers. It was this social ostracism that made Monika’s brother murder his sister and brother-in-law Kuldip. And even though the three alleged killers, Mandeep, Ankit and Nakul, have been arrested the village caste (khap) panchayat justified the killings and declared the three to be innocent.

In Indian society one is surrounded by false values right from birth – and the Wazirpur killings are a direct outcome of this polluted mindset. In their perverse imagination, the killers believed that their “honour” was at stake. It is a crying shame that so many of us in this country that calls itself free should continue to embrace outdated and cruel customs. Real democracy could take deep roots in only countries where the caste system did not exist. In 1807, the British Parliament passed a resolution to end trading of slaves and discrimination on the basis of colour. The man behind the reform was Christian evangelist and British MP Vilver Force. But such examples are rarely witnessed in Indian society.

While India adopted the Westminster model of democracy, there remains a wide gap between observance of democratic principles and their habitual breach. Can a system in which communities routinely condone caste-based divisions be called democratic by any stretch? Is there any Indian political party whose manifesto even mentions the numerous social evils that bedevil us, not to mention campaign against these? Indeed even parties working for the welfare of the Dalits and other depressed classes are forced to play the caste factor during elections. This is particularly unfortunate because it is the political parties that are best placed to battle these dishonourable killings and other evils.

The three pillars of the government – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary – the media and the scores of voluntary organisations that are around, have completely failed us in this regard. Had they fought these evils in a warlike manner, women like Monica and Shobha would still be alive. But communities rooted in caste believe see a single “evil” – love outside the brutal parameters that define them. Caste pride rules over all else and their false sense of status dominates their thinking entirely.

And now we have two more divisions – between those who are for a caste-based census, and those against it. Some of the so-called upper castes are vehemently opposed to it, on the ground that it will further strengthen casteist attitudes. This section claims – and it is an absurd claim – that such a census will only sharpen caste feelings and draw into their vicious fold even those who are for a casteless society. This is as silly as it is dangerous. For here is an opportunity to identify the castes (the first step) and then take steps to eradicate the evil. It should be obvious to all that a cancerous growth in our bodies cannot be cured by mere surface dressing: it requires major surgery. This is what our political parties should be doing. Instead many parties went to the extent of supporting the caste-based (khap) panchayats, which in a sense makes them a party to the crime.

Tehelka - India's Independent Weekly News Magazine

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