Shafiq R Khan

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Honour killing still haunts our country

KILLING OF women by family members is often termed honour killing by village elders in the rural areas of the country. Caste discrimination, however, also exists among urban Indians. Education and exposure have not been able to wash away certain prejudices even among the educated urban population of India.

"Honour Killing" literally means murder committed to safeguard the honour of the family but the term has got a deeper meaning and serves a different motive in our villages. The standard definition of Honour Killing goes like this: Honour killing is murder of womenfolk by family members, generally male, who are compelled to remove stains on their familys honour. A woman can cause that stain on the family due to several reasons like refusing an arranged marriage, eloping with her beloved, being the victim of sexual assault or just because she wants to get a divorce.

Poornima, a19 year old, was thrown into a canal by her father and some of the other male members of her family. She was being punished for falling in love with a boy of a lower caste. However, Poornima survived and later charged her relatives for trying to kill her.

Reena, a 21-year-old Jat girl had eloped with her beloved who was from the Yadav community. Her parents tracked the couple down and forced her to marry a 50-year old man. After the marriage she was repeatedly raped by her husband and three more relatives. It was after the intervention of local journalists that she was saved from her in-laws but her parents pressurised her to return to her husband. Reena lodged a complaint with the police that she was "not safe" with her parents. The girl was then sent to a "Nari Niketan". Her lover, who had been arrested for kidnapping her, is now out on bail.

Caste discrimination also exists among urban Indians. Subhash Chander, living in Chicago, killed his daughter Monika, son-in-law Rajesh Jhambh and grandchild Vansh in their Oak Forest apartment merely because his daughter had married a man of supposedly a lower caste. In 2002, an FCI official stabbed his daughter to death at Mohali for a similar reason.

According to a survey done by the Delhi-based Indian Population Statistics Survey (IPSS) in mid-2007, in India almost 655 homicidal cases have been registered as honour killings. While in Punjab and Delhi, the figure touches 32 per cent, in Muzaffarnagar, the worst affected district of Uttar Pradesh, 25 per cent honour killings have been reported so far.

These incidents and statistics bring shame to our country. Regardless of the Indian economy reaching great heights, and the country moving ahead in most spheres, the spectre of caste discrimination continues to haunt the nation. Women continue to be harassed and killed for the sake of family "honour".

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