(Dis) Honour Killings

There is no honour in killing and no act of killing can ever be honourable. Then how exactly did this self-contradicting phrase ‘Honour Killing’ come into existence? Welcome to this world where customs overrule logic, where mob mentality snubs an individual’s free thinking, a world where injustice prevails at the cost of vote-bank politics. No it isn’t dystopia that I describe; I refer to our very own country.

Five Honour Killings in five days in the national capital? What is happening to us? No, these honour killings aren’t the only things going wrong. Why do they arise?

The truth is that we all are chained by our caste systems and our orthodoxies to varying extents. As a result, an open mindset is often mistaken to be rebellious and against the societal ‘norms’. We seem to have a perfect idea how the other should lead his/her life and honour killings exemplify such an attitude in its most violent form. If only we had that much idea about our own lives, the world would have been a much better place to live.

The recent incidents in New Delhi are definitely shocking, but this isn’t only about these five killings. It is about the thousands of such Kuldeeps and Monicas who have been brutally murdered by their own kith and kin in the name of ‘honour’ of their caste, community or family.

The concept of ‘Honour Killings’ isn’t something new; it has been prevalent in the villages of mainly Haryana, UP and Punjab for a long time. Most of such cases were never registered since they were secretly applauded by the villagers. The rest found a small news column on the second page of the local newspaper until the case got buried, victimized by the village politics. It is encouraging to see that at least after these Delhi incidents the media and the authorities have taken this issue more seriously.

Well, this is how most of us feel about this issue. With the advent of modernization and globalization, people in the cities have more or less come out of their rigid caste framework. Thus we do witness lots of inter-caste marriages in these times.

But what about the villages? It is as though time has come to a standstill there. They constitute an entire different world where law and justice seem to defy our logical notions. Our legal framework i.e. the legal panchayats more or less failed in the villages. As a result, self-styled community panchayats called the khap panchayats came into existence. They are basically caste based councils thriving on the fact that they seem to understand the problems of the villagers better thereby delivering speedy ‘justice’. Today they are nothing but tyrants, having taken the law in their hands. Who are these people? Is it only because of caste systems that leaders don’t take a strong action against them? Or is it something much uglier like vote-bank politics?

But the point here is do we really require a law against parents killing their own children? Isn’t such a killing inhuman enough? How can any parent be so brutal? How can a man made thing like a caste system supersede our natural feelings of parenthood? How is it that the child’s protectors are themselves becoming the killers?

NO. No diktat, No khap can ever be powerful enough to convince parents to kill their own children. What is flawed here is the mindset of the people. Justice, logic, fairness… all these words make sense to us, as we all have had a mental freedom, the freedom to question. But we need to understand the psychology of people in the villages to actually reach the root cause of the problem. These people have made the khap panchayats, their defiance only can render the latter obsolete.

There exist two channels of thought – the villages and the cities. It isn’t about villages vs. cities; we need to make these two worlds meet somewhere without creating an imbalance. That would surely be a Herculean task, but that is the actual big picture. We can have several legislations, but we tend to forget that the people elect these bodies which in turn make these legislations. What we need is a renaissance of thoughts, a mutual understanding between people of different faiths.

I don’t say that this is the answer to the problem. There isn’t anything like answers. What I want to share here is a perspective. We need to realize that what is happening isn’t right at all. It isn’t that honour killings are taking place only in cases where there have been marriages within the same gotra. There have also been honour killings merely challenging an individual’s right to choose his/her own life partner.

The Khap Panchayats which had been established to provide village people with justice have now taken away their freedom of expression, their ability to reason…

Paloma Sodhi

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