Shafiq R Khan


HONOUR KILLING in India : A notion of sanskritisation

Every year thousands of lives are sacrificed, irrespective of caste, creed, religion or social status of the family. People kill their own kin and kiths in the name of family’s/caste’s pride and honour. The worst thing is that where the Panchayats pronounce death penalties for the youths who dare to enter in a relationship outside their caste/creed/religious and economic circle. The police act as a mere spectator and they don’t even register a case and if, by chance a case is registered, no proper action is taken in lieu of the excessive social pressure. In history of Indian democracy, no law has been enacted against the regional caste panchayats who pass such ‘judgments’. The regional and caste panchayats are so harsh and unquestionable (partly due to their role in elections) that they give death penalty straight away irrespective of the circumstances and ignoring Indian law. The caste panchayats are in themselves a ‘special court’ like the khap panchayat (Federal clan council of the Jats and other kindred people of Upper Doab, Haryana and neighboring areas as well as uttarpradesh and uttrakhand). It hears matters relating to 12 to 14 villages and various matters and problems relating to them. Historically their way of approaching and handling the things is not only against law of the land but also inhuman. Whenever they sit in a group they are proved to be more powerful than the police and the court of law. Indian state remains spectator. The greatest Democracy has to remain silent because it is the giant drawback of the democracies that it has to go asking for votes to them every five years. The youths and women even older women are the maximum victims of these panchayats. Due to all these glaring facts the voice of dissent has not been audible.

Photo The tribune  
The castes of land-lords abbreviated as AJGAR in Hindi (Ahir or Yadavas, Jat, Gujjar, Rajput) are socially as well as politically strong since the times of the Mughals and the British and became more stronger after Independence. For the past two decades they are passing through a phase of cultural duality. Their traditional value system was such that it determined their eating habits, sex-marriages and the life style. Same is the case with the Dalits and the backward castes of this region that are used to follow them (the upper castes). Their social life was surrounded by and revolves around all these traditional beliefs and value system. The source of all this is development and prosperity that came after Independence which acted as a catalyst in ‘sanskritisation’ of the ‘lower castes’. The pace of ‘sanskritisation’ is very fast in neo-rich communities. We can see various social, political, and cultural ups and downs in this society. In these societies, today’s development in scientific, technological and educational arena and Government policies to promote such knowledge have caused various changes and people have become more aware of the changes coming around. These developments have given rise to new types of social tension and mental stresses to individuals. If we try to understand the historical character of these societies then we can understand that in order to satisfy and pursue their personal adventure and interests they can go to any extent but at the same time they can be unscrupulous in the name of their so called social discipline. So the fact is that the society is whereas changing horizontally it is unable to accept the change in its notion of social ethics vertically. 

The love stories that we hear of in the northern region is just the beginning and it is a glimpse of change which is just trying to penetrate vertically in the society. The society is confused on the change because these changes are against their perceived social beliefs. A large number of people in our society are the biggest critique of the change. But the good thing is that the voice of criticism and the definitions has understood this change.

There are many differences of opinion regarding relationships and marriages in Indian society. Northern Indian rural societies have double standards favoring men regarding the change. It is said that number of unmarried or widowers are high in these societies. And in these villages out of two brothers only one will get married and the other one will have illicit relationship with the bride. Many unemployed boys who are from well reputed families buy girls from east India for their marriages. As a whole the paucity of girls are cited as the reason for inter-caste/class marriages. Whereas in such incidents of honor killings the girls family give excuses of morality and then comes the question of social status and family background. Later on respect of family, village, caste and gotra comes one by one. Panchayats sit in groups for discussing the issue and religious gurus and contractors of social morality pass their judgments.

In a sentence, honor killing is a result of a self-contradictory fight between tradition and neo-cauterized generation. Khaps and other social systems are losing their territory and young couples are breaking the traditions and odd social customs.

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