Mallika* fell head over heels for Ranjit*. Fresh out of college, with good prospects and dreams for their future, both were ecstatic to have found one another.
However, their joy was short-lived. They received stiff opposition from their families because they both belonged to different communities.
But Mallika’s younger sister, Roma*, supported her, to the extent of going against the family and helping her sister to elope with her boyfriend, get secretly married and settle in a different city.
Once the family realised that Mallika is missing, they questioned Roma about Mallika’s whereabouts. She is even beaten for not being forthcoming with the information. But Roma does not betray her sister.
However, the entire community is outraged at this marriage. And Mallika’s uncle and brothers decide to track her down and ‘take care’ of the matter. Eventually, they find Mallika and Ranjit. And mercilessly kill both at a point-blank range. Roma meets the same fate.
Brothers killing their sisters, fathers beheading their daughters, the wider community murdering its youth for marrying a partner of choice who does not belong to the same caste or creed!!!!!!!! Violence in the name of ‘honour’ has been spreading at an alarming rate.
Recently, there has been a spate of honour killings in the country. Statistics reveal that over 1,000 young people are killed every year owing to honour killings which are mostly directed against women and girls. However, as seen in the above case, the son-in-law was also murdered, which is now becoming a trend.
Although honour killing is said to be a global phenomenon, it is observed that the perpetrators are largely of an Asian or Middle Eastern origin. Such killings are widespread in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and other countries with socially backward and poor rural areas and do not seem to be a frequent occurrence in the West.
Such crimes are committed for a wide range of “offences” — marrying outside the community, marital infidelity, pre-marital sex, flirting, or even failing to dress modestly can be perceived as impugning the family honour.
A June 2008 report by Turkey’s Human Rights Directorate says that in Istanbul alone, there is one honour killing every week and over 1,000 were killed during the last five years. A young woman’s throat was slit in the town square because a love ballad had been dedicated to her over the radio.
In India, honour killing is most prevalent in states such as Punjab, Haryana, western areas of Uttar Pradesh and in some parts of Bihar. In many instances, khap panchayats or caste councils order the killings for marrying against their wishes.
But the back-to-back cases in the national capital and elsewhere in the country in the past few months have shaken the conscience of modern India.
According to a new analysis by NGO Shakti Vahini, such sordid incidents have been reported from all over the country and in 90 per cent of the cases, the perpetrators of the crime were from the girl’s family.
Lack of strict laws and regressive mindset with regard to caste system still pervading the country are the biggest reasons for these cold-blooded murders in the name of saving family pride.
Even as the government is contemplating bringing in a new law to deal with the spurt in honour killings, the fact remains that young women, and sometimes men, are not safe from such bloody reprisals for defying the strict family code.
To quote Elif Shafak, the author of the book – Honour – the truth is there is no happiness without freedom and there is no “honour” in murder.