The 2013 cold blooded murder of an adult girl and a boy in Rohtak’s Garnawathi village near Rohtak had generated smoke over the pride of Haryana known for its hard-working community and sports achievements.
Another instance to send shock waves across the country was that of Manoj – Babli who were brutally done to death in village Karoda of Kaithal district in June 2007. It should not be construed that no other honour killings have been committed since then. Dozens reported and many more unreported cases have taken place since then. Two girls have been killed only within a week of the Garnawathi killing. One of these fateful victims had eloped with a boy in Bapa village of Yamunanagar district. She was traced and poisoned first by the parents and then strangulated when survived by poisoning. But the infamous Garnawathi incident evoking more widespread anguish is for the reason of worst kind of cruelty used in the crime as well as the audacity with which this crime was being defended by the perpetrators and also by certain other regressive forces in the media.
The other notable feature is the prompt spurt in the activities of some caste panchayats who are desperately seeking to deviate the main issue of right to life by mischievously repeating the demand for amending the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 which according to them was the reason for the family members and parents to left with no other ‘option’ but to kill their daughters and the boys for their ‘sin’ of developing a relation within the same gotra or/ and the same village.
The khap panchayats have also attributed crimes against women to the attire they wear like Jeans etc and some of these self- appointed cultural and moral custodians have also declared a ban on wearing jeans or using mobile phones. There are press reports of certain khap groups having supervised some girl’s schools in Jhajjar district in order to make sure that their diktat was followed obediently. Such absurdity was also on the public display in the aftermath of 16 December Delhi gang rape and murder.
One crucial factor, however, still remains missing in the debate and have a definite bearing on honour killing is the identity politics being nakedly indulged in by major mainstream political parties in Haryana and other states in the recent past. What has been going on uncriticised is the caste consolidation as an electoral strategy in a vulgar competitive mode by various political outfits and other opportunist forces.
This factor of caste identity politics consequently converted by RSS/VHP into communal flare-up had also played its role in the Muzaffarnagar carnage in UP recently. It is not just by chance that most of the self-styled caste bodies have been allotted large plots of prime lands at almost all district headquarters in Haryana by the successive governments in the name of Dharamshalas.
The size of the land and the location depends on the political clout of the particular caste. The increasing instances of attacks on the Dalits and sexual assaults on women too are not unconnected to such pernicious political game at play these days. The incidents of honour killings, sexual assaults on women, persecution of dalits and minorities have some common link with the perpetuation of identity politics and therefore, logical fall-out of caste consolidation as a political agenda. It can be seen gaining more aggressive postures particularly on gaining patronage of the ruling party of the day.
The regressive agenda of caste consolidation has paid more political dividends in recent years by using the Gotra as an emotional tool by the caste panchayats.
It is precisely due to the gotra factor that the caste or khap panchayats are deliberately posing the same gotra marriages as a major threat to the socio-cultural fabric of a particular community. This time again same gotra and same village marriages have been used as a shield in order to defend the ignominy of a most cruel act of murder.
They know it well that the demand for amendment in the Hindu Marriage act is not only unwarranted but totally impractical as the present Act is valid for the whole country while the marriage customs are not uniform even in the Haryana what to speak of the entire country as far as so-called unacceptability towards same gotra and same village marriages is concerned. So such a demand of amendment of the HMA amounts to imposition of a social custom followed by a small community also on those regions and communities who have been following different customs in marriages.
Moreover, the customs are not something eternal but keep on changing by various social strata, communities, families and individuals. Further what is the guarantee that all Hindu couples shall tie the marital knot under the Hindu marriage Act only and not under the Special Marriage Act.
It is a matter of fact that in large parts of Haryana people of many communities do not prefer to marry within the gotra as the cultural notion of brotherhood remains by and large intact. Traditionally boys and girls of the village community and those belonging to the same gotra are presumed to be brothers and sisters.
It is another matter that cases of rapes within the gotra and within the village are not uncommon. But caste panchayats and even the elected panchayats often not only remain tolerant towards cases of rape but they work overtime to stop the aggrieved side from going to the police. They are mostly found defending the culprits and compel the victim and her family to reach a compromise either at the level of police or turn hostile in the court. If one goes by their specious argument then why Ved Pal Moan was lynched in Singhwal village of Jind district on 23 July 2009. His marriage was neither within the gotra nor within the village.
Moreover, exceptions can not be ruled out even cases of fathers sexually exploiting their daughters are being reported. Does it mean a law is needed in this regard? On the contrary a separate law is certainly required against honour killings. Justification for such legislation is that there is always a deficiency of eye witnesses and other vital evidence needed for conviction of accused who are often none other than the closest relatives of the deceased themselves.
It is highly objectionable that the Haryana government is opposing the proposed draft legislation mooted by the law ministry and supported by women organisations with AIDWA having made an important contribution by submitting a serious draft. Therefore, the outcry from the khaps etc regarding amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act is nothing but a ploy to protect the patriarchal hegemony. Raising the bogey of same gotra marriages as a big threat is virtually defending the gruesome murders.
It is true that moral degradation is pervading fast with the blind consumerism particularly very fast under the neo- liberal dispensation. But this can be countered by healthy and progressive movements and not by strengthening caste and other regressive platforms. The false notion of family or community honour must be countered by notions of real honour which lies in respecting women, an end to discrimination of dalits and minority communities, opening dialogue with youth.
What is really needed is a very powerful social movement in Haryana against casteism, female foeticide, alcoholism, vulgarisation of culture and for equal rights for women.