'Jatland' horrors

Lucknow


S

ince the first reported honour killing in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district way back in 1993, the number of such cases have increased considerably in the state, especially in the `jatland' in Western UP.

In fact Muzaffarnagar alone accounts for roughly 25 per cent cases of honour killings, according to a survey in 2007. The survey by a New Delhi-based organisation pointed out that a total of 150 ‘honour killings’ had taken place in the district.

Cases of honour killings have also been reported from Saharanpur, Ballia, Kanpur, Bijnore, Moradabad, Ghaziabad, Sitapur and Agra districts.

Inter-caste marriages, marrying against the wishes of the family, marriages within the same ‘gotra’ (clan) and marriages involving hindus and muslims have witnessed violent opposition from the families concerned and caste panchayats, resulting at times in killings of either the boy or the girl.  Significantly, honour killings have also taken place even when the couples belong to the same caste as was witnessed in 2004.  Mahesh and Janaka, a married couple from the same caste,  were abducted and taken to their native village in Central UP where their throats were slit after being tortured for two days.
“Falling in love appears to be a crime in the hinterland”, quips Shravani Mehta of Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives (AALI), an NGO working for the recognition of choice for marriage.

Grim stats

As many as ten cases of honour killings have been reported from the state since March 2009, says Renu Mishra, also with AALI, who monitors such cases.

AALI has conducted a research to examine the scope and nature of violation of the ‘women’s right to decide if, when and whom to marry’, which often results in tragic consequences for the parties concerned.

“The conclusion from the research was that such violations result in a complex web of discrimination against women. This web consists of the linkages between violations of the right with justifications based on cultural and traditional practices, coupled with restrictions on women’s autonomy, health and development, violence by natal families and communities, absence of state support and/or connivance of the law enforcers with the perpetrators”, the report said.

Not only the families, deeply hurt and enraged over being ‘betrayed’ by the boy or the girl, who fall in love and choose to marry against their wishes, but also the ‘all powerful’ caste panchayats perpetrate or abet ‘honour killings’.

The caste panchayats have in the past pronounced orders to strangle, burn or hack the lovers to death for ‘violating’ the `strict caste-based traditions’.

“Such caste panchayats have a major role in the social set-up, especially in the western
UP districts”, opines S P Pandey, Director of the Lucknow-based G B Pant Institute for Studies in Rural Development.

Pandey says that inter-caste marriages are quite common now-a-days even in UP. “But they are still frowned upon in the western part, perhaps owing to the rigid social traditions”.  It has also been found that the caste panchayats have always targetted the weaker. Those who wield power were left untouched. The families or the panchayats resorted to brutal methods for punishing the ‘lovers’. “It is aimed at reminding the people not to even think of violating the archaic rules”, says Pandey. People still remember the killing of Nitish Katara, who dared to fall in love with mafia don turned politician D P Yadav’s daughter. Nitish was allegedly killed by the brother of the girl.

Rare conviction

While such cases usually don’t result in convictions for want of evidence and witnesses, only a few days back a district court in Saharanpur sentenced a man and his son to life imprisonment for killing a boy, who had eloped with his daughter.

By and large the politicians, fearing erosion of their vote bank, support the archaic social rules. Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait, a ‘jat’ said that the social rules must be honoured. Although he disapproved the killings, he opined that it was difficult to prevent them.

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