On 6 April 2021, in Karnataka, a man murdered his sister, furious over her so-called affair. On 28 March, a woman and her nephew were found murdered in the Hamirpur district of Uttar Pradesh, which the police has called an “honour killing”. In another gruesome incident in Madhya Pradesh, a man beheaded his brother-in-law and carried his head to the police station in a similar case (reported in The Week). Recently, a sub-inspector and his constable were held for an “honour” killing in Delhi.
Who is responsible for these murders done in the name of honour?
Love is not a crime, but to kill a couple who are deeply in love with each other is an unimaginable crime. Being in love and choosing a life partner are rights of adults. None are entitled to interfere in their lives. Selfless love is spontaneous, beyond caste, religion, and class. So, if a woman and man want to spend their life together, it is not at all allowed to kill them for the sake of fake honour.
Indian history is full of inter-caste and inter-religious marriages, then why do some Indians harass and murder those who choose a soulmate?
Why do parents who give birth and bring up their children with lots of love and care become so harsh when their children want to choose a life partner who is not perfect according to regressive social norms like caste, gotra, class, religion, or gender?
They are humiliated for falling in love which their family members do not accept due to conservatism. They become selfish and uncaring about the emotions of their children. So, they take extreme steps to save their “caste purity” and “reputation” in society. Sometimes due to tremendous pressure from family members—and other enemies of love—couples commit suicide. It is a harsh reality of rural India and small towns. But even big cities are not free of such incidents. It is utterly shameful that the murderers commit the crime cold-bloodedly and yet feel no guilt in most cases.
Unfortunately, “honour” killing is not seen only in the villages, but the supposedly well-educated hold feudal notions of honour in cities too. They guard their daughters’ sexuality and interfere in their life decisions even after they are adults. They treat daughters like puppets and seek to control their sexuality to satisfy their false ego and “reputation” in our caste-ridden society.
Although parents may raise their children with love, affection, and care, they do not own them like properties. Once they reach adulthood, they have the right to marry whomsoever they choose, or not marry at all. They also have the right to choose a career according to their talent and desire. Emotional blackmail by parents who seek arranged marriages for their children should be considered as regressive as other malpractices that prevail in our society. Marriages performed forcefully, without the consent of both partners, are not legally recognised as legitimate.
Annihilate Caste to Annihilate Honour Killing
Researchers have attributed honour killings to the following reasons: 1. Falling in love with a man or woman of unacceptable gotra, caste, religion, or sexual orientation, 2. Marriages for love as opposed to arranged by families, and 3. so-called “illicit” romantic affairs between family members.
In Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, khap panchayats issue diktats against inter-caste or intra-gotra marriages. Several young couples have been murdered by villagers and families belonging to the dominant castes. In metropolitan cities too, caste prejudices play a very negative role despite the Brahmanical propaganda that educated people do not believe in caste. A few years ago, in a metro city like Chennai, a Dalit youngster was murdered in broad daylight for marrying a young woman who belonged to a backward caste. The superhit Marathi film, Sairat, was based on a similar theme.
Another reason for “honour” killings is inter-religious marriage. Muslim youngsters are accused of luring Hindu women to convert them into Islam on the pretence of love. The right-wing calls it “love jihad”. However, it has repeatedly been proved that “love jihad” is a myth propagated by the right-wing to spread hatred against Muslims and divide society along communal lines. The case of Hadiya from Kerala is an example of this. Hadiya married a Muslim man and converted to Islam of her own choice, yet her family and sections of society targeted her for it.
So-called upper-caste families want to control their offspring to maintain caste purity. If an elite-caste woman marries a “lower” caste man, it is considered polluting. The children born out of this marriage have been called “Varna Sankara” in the Shastras. The actual concern in such cases is that the property. Families and clans wish to control their properties within the caste. Inter-caste marriages can change this, which the so-called upper castes are unwilling to accept. Hence, they link caste purity to fake honour, to let families believe they can murder without guilt.
Only a struggle to annihilate caste, as Babasaheb Ambedkar said, along with spreading democratic culture, implementing laws against caste discrimination, and creating conditions for social, cultural, and economic equality, can end the false pride that leads to honour killings.
A democratic state must take serious action against the feudal forces that take the law into their own hands and justify their brutal crimes. Only the annihilation of caste can annihilate honour killings.
(The author is an independent journalist who specialises in gender issues. The views are personal.)