Honour killing is a menace that has rotten the roots of the Indian society. To be young and in love has proved to be fatal for the Indian society. The stereotypical image of the society that a young boy and a girl can’t fall in love with each other has not undergone many changes. The bigoted society has denied to accept the contemporary customs and traditions and can’t endure any violation of their rigid customs and dogmas. This in turn gives birth to a jinx disguised under the name of “Honour Killings”, which is not a boon but a bane to the society.
India is a country known for its blend of multifarious cultures, traditions and religion. But, throwing a cursory glance at the real picture, one will find that, inspite of all this there are no amicable relations between these faiths, religions, customs and traditions. Religious and social fanaticism has led to death of not only love but of lovers also. These Khap Panchayats are like vultures, which leave no stone unturned to catch hold of lovers, who have to pay a huge cost for loving someone.
Honour killing is a badge of shame on our country, where a person’s right to life is denied. He falls a victim to the bigoted people of the society. It is a menace where, the lover’s fall a prey to blind dogmas and traditions and are massacred in the name of honour. This menace is taking its toll in the society because it is getting sanctioned by a number of caste panchayats, with the connivance of family members. These panchayats came to be known as Khap Panchayats. These Khap Panchayats are thriving in many villages, especially in North Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh. It is highly unfortunate that in a democratic and civilised country like India, dreadful and divisive Khap panchayats continue to exist.
Even though the number of love marriages are escalating day by day but the reality is raucous in most of the villages. The scene in rural areas is exactly the contrary. Person will have to pay a huge price for loving someone of different ethnic group. It is believed that members of Khap Panchayat abide by their social traditions and customs, where inter-caste marriages are not allowed. When people cannot marry by choice, they are forced to abide by baseless superstitions. Caste still remains a crucial factor which still governs the life of a number of people, especially, in rural areas of Punjab, Haryana and Western parts of UP. A number of people have fallen a victim to this jinx. It is a false notion that only women are victims of honour killings. Even man also fall a prey to this menace. Many grooms have been killed by the father or brother of bride. This menace not only covers areas of North India. It embraces other areas as well.
When we look at India as a whole, there are two entirely different worlds. First, the world of those people living in the city, who are not only progressing economically and technologically, but also in context of their ideas and outlook towards life. They are broad-minded people and have nothing to do with caste related distinctions. Second, is the world of those who thrive in rural areas and are still bound by the rigid beliefs of caste system, those exixted innumerable years ago and refuse to move ahead in life.
In the recent times there has been a spate of such killings and the trend is continuously increasing day by day. The publicity which has been given to the issue by media has created adverse effects on the minds of the youth of the nation, who may be intending to get married according to their own choice. It is just because of this that the couple commits suicide, in order to escape from the gruesome killing. Due to this several Human Rights violations and violations of fundamental rights is happening.
Even though women activist’s and social organizations across the nation have begun to look at the matters seriously, and they have asked the Central Ministry to make this heinous crime of Honour killing a separate category. A constant demand is being made for stamping out this evil from Indian soil. But the Central Cabinet members seem to be divided in their own policies and are themselves ambiguous about , what should be done. One segment opined that honour killing should be considered a separate entity in itself, and there is a dire need to redefine laws with regard to honour killing. Whereas, other segment refused to frame laws against Khap panchayats, stating that it would be detrimental to the old customs and traditions of these panchayats and stated it to be a sensitive issue.
Honour Killings are homicide and murder which are serious crimes under the Indian Penal Code. It also violates Articles 14, 15 (1) & (3) 19, 21 and 39(f) of the Constitution of India. It is against the various International Commitment the Government of India has made in the “United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women” (CEDAW) of which India is a signatory and has also ratified the convention. It is also against the spirit of Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
One of the few parliamentarians with a record of raising women’s issues both in and outside Parliament, Brinda Karat feels that honour killings and honour-related harassment do not get the attention they deserve from the executive or the legislature. She says that it was time political parties came together on this issue. In an interview to Frontline, she explained the importance of recognising these crimes as a separate category and the need for special laws to deal with them as had been done in the case of sati. However, she said that she has raised the issue of honour killing innumerable times in the Parliament, but the reply which she got was that they do not recognise the crime of honour killing as a separate category and therefore, no separate laws could be framed.
According to a judgement given by Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2008, it was stated that there were thousands of cases of young couples who had been victimised because they crossed the lakshman rekha determined by their communities, castes or families. It really hurts to see that till today also there is no such legal definition of Honour Killing or honour crime. It still has not been considered a separate entity. The perpetrators are let free to these gruesome killings, without fear of any impunity. No witness ever comes forward to testify, because Khap panchayat is a whole body in itself and there are no pin-pointed culprits.
We are not ostracizing these ancient traditions and beliefs, but it leaves one flabbergasted when one sees thousands of lives being claimed in pretext of saving honour, based on these false traditions. This practise of Honour killing has wreathed havoc and devastation on innocent people. This is a biggest occlusion in the progress of the country. There is a strong need for government intervention. Government need to adopt stringent laws to curtail this menace.
Student, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab
[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]