- POSTED: 24 Sep 2013 11:37
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Police in the northern Indian province of Haryana are treating the murder of a young couple as an honour killing -- the couple were planning to marry but were brutally and publicly murdered by the girl's family last week. The incident have thrown light on the reality of honour killings in India.
INDIA: It may be hard to believe but one funeral pyre of a woman in the Indian province of Haryana is a mark of honour for the people who believe she was rightfully punished.
Her "crime" -- she was planning to marry a man of her own choosing -- but he was considered to be from the same sub-caste. For that dishonour, he was beaten till his arms and legs were broken and then beheaded. The young woman was lynched by her own relatives.
Billu Pehlwan, the girl's father, said: "I have no regret killing them, her.. I was absolutely right. I don't have an inch of regret. My action in killing them is absolutely right. It will send an appropriate message to society."
Police arrested the boastful killers but in a country that is currently preoccupied with political campaigning, the young couple's murder is not getting the attention it deserves.
That failing however, cannot hide the barbaric nature of so-called honour killings.
While there are no official figures, according to one study, more than 1000 people are killed every year for falling in love or marrying outside their caste or inside their sub-caste. That number is even harder to understand when confronted with the knowledge that India abolished caste-based discrimination 50 years ago.
Love within a person's own sub-caste ("Gotra") is forbidden because it is considered incestuous.
Madhu Medra, a legal expert, said: "If somebody says I will bomb the city because I disagree with the government's policy that would be terrorism, right? Our government would act against it. If it's terrorism against young men and women exercising their constitutional rights, that should be treated as terrorism too."
While terrorism is a relatively new concept, honour killings have survived the test of time to become traditions -- just like the village councils that preside over such honour judgements.
Publicly they will claim to be against honour killings, but within the confines of the village, inter-caste marriage remains wholly unacceptable.
In 2011, the Law Commission of India proposed new legislation for the prosecution of family members involved in honour killings. It suggested making it a non-bailable offence, but differed with the Supreme Court's proposal that the death sentence be applied to all such cases.
Ms Mehra added: "I don't think a special law will help. Police has simply not been trained, police reforms are not happening. They have the same ideology as the community. They don't think anything wrong has happened.
"In fact, many would say we would have done the same to our daughters, like we recently had the defence counsel who defended the Delhi gang-rape accused, saying that 'I would have killed my daughter.'"
India's government may want to stamp out honour crimes but in doing so, it risks upsetting the more traditionally-minded electorate. Many social scientist are now concluding that the issue is so deeply ingrained that some form of enhanced gender sensitivity maybe the only viable solution -- a kind of long-term societal re-programming.