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BOOK REVIEW: THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini

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Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

    If you want to discover Afghanistan this indeed is the book. Afghanistan always gives you that eerie feeling because of its difficult terrain and the exploitation and devastation by Taliban. In The Kite Runner the author while narrating the story takes you through the length and breadth of Afghanistan in terms of its socio-politico nuances. From an Indian perspective it even highlights the similarities between the cultures of the two countries and that makes the book even more interesting.

    ‘The Kite Runner’ is the first novel by Afghan American author Khaled Hosseni. It was published in 2003 by Riverhead Books. The price of this book in Amazon is Rs 319 for a print copy and Rs 179 for a kindle copy. It tells the story of Amir, a young boy, a Pashtun, from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, whose closest friend is Hassan of Hazara tribe, and therefore, considered a lesser human being in Afghanistan and especially among the Pashtuns. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of Afghanistan’s monarchy through the Soviet military intervention, and the exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the rise of the Taliban regime.

    Hosseini considers The Kite Runner to be a father–son story that emphasises familial aspects of the narrative, an element that he continued to use in his later works also. Themes of guilt and redemption feature prominently in the novel, with a pivotal scene depicting an act of sexual assault that happens against Hassan that Amir fails to prevent. The situation is the primary reason why Amir and Hassan’s friendship ends. The latter half of the book centers on Amir’s attempts to make amends for this mistake by rescuing Hassan’s son two decades later.

    The Kite Runner became a bestseller after being printed in paperback and was popularized in book clubs. It was a number one New York Times bestseller for over two years, with over seven million copies sold in the United States. Reviews were generally positive, though parts of the plot drew significant controversy in Afghanistan. A number of adaptations were created following publication, including a 2007 film of the same name, several stage performances, and a graphic novel. The book classifies under Historical fiction and completes in about 372 pages.

    I particularly liked the flow, the language, the construction of sentences and the analogies used in certain sentences to explain what the author intended to say in the book. The detailing is superb and so are the coincidences. The language is high-flown, verbose but to give parochial affect the author has often used local Afghan words. Upon completing the book an Indian reader will be able to make out the similarities between the cultures of India and Afganistan, even when the author touches Hindi at one place in a slightly derogatory manner.

    Khaled Hosseni worked as a medical internist at Kaiser Hospital in Mountain View, California for several years before publishing The Kite Runner. In 1999, Hosseini learned through a news report that the Taliban had banned kite flying in Afghanistan, a restriction he found particularly cruel when that was the biggest sport of Afghanistan. The news “struck a personal chord” in him, as he had grown up with the sport while living in Afghanistan. He was motivated to write a 25-page short story about two boys who fly kites in Kabul. Hosseini submitted copies to Esquire and The New Yorker, both of which rejected it. He later discovered the manuscript in his garage in March 2001 and began to expand it into a novel format at the suggestion of a friend. According to Hosseini, the narrative became “much darker” than he originally intended. His editor, Cindy Spiegel, “helped him rework the last third of his manuscript”, something she describes as relatively common for a first novel.

    The Kite Runner covers a multigenerational period and focuses on the relationship between parents and their children. Hosseini developed an interest in the theme while in the process of writing. He later divulged that he frequently came up with pieces of the plot by drawing pictures of it. For example, he did not decide to make Amir and Hassan brothers until after he had doodled it.

    Like Amir, the protagonist of the novel, Hosseini too was born in Afghanistan and left the country as a youth, not returning until 2003. Thus, he was frequently questioned about the extent of the autobiographical aspects of the book. In response, he said, “When I say some of it is me, then people look unsatisfied. The parallels are pretty obvious, but … I left a few things ambiguous because I wanted to drive the book clubs crazy.” Having left the country around the time of the Soviet invasion, he felt a certain amount of survivor’s guilt. “Whenever I read stories about Afghanistan my reaction was always tinged with guilt. A lot of my childhood friends had a very hard time. Some of our cousins died. One died in a fuel truck trying to escape Afghanistan [an incident that Hosseini fictionalizes in The Kite Runner]. The book talks about his guilt. He was one of the kids who grew up with flying kites. His father was shot.” Regardless of that, he maintains that the plot is fictional. 

    Riverhead Books published The Kite Runner, ordering an initial printing of 50,000 copies in hardback. It was released on May 29, 2003, and the paperback edition was released a year later. Hosseini took a year-long sabbatical from practicing medicine to promote the book, signing copies, speaking at various events, and raising funds for Afghan causes. Originally published in English, The Kite Runner was later translated into 42 languages for publication in 38 countries. In 2013, Riverhead released the 10th anniversary edition with a new gold-rimmed cover and a foreword by Hosseini. 

    Plot

Part I Wazir Akbar Khan neighbourhood in Kabul

    Amir, a well-to-do Pashtun boy, and Hassan, a Hazara who is the son of Ali, Amir’s father’s servant, spend their days kite flying in the hitherto peaceful city of Kabul. Flying kites was a way to escape the horrific reality the two boys were living in. Hassan is a successful “kite runner” for Amir. He knows where the kite will land without watching it. Both boys are motherless. Amir’s mother died during childbirth, while Hassan’s mother, Sanaubar, simply abandoned him and Ali. Amir’s father is a wealthy merchant. Amir affectionately refers to him as Baba, who loves both the boys—Amir and Hassan. He makes a point of buying Hassan exactly the same things as Amir, much to Amir’s annoyance. He even pays to have Hassan’s cleft lip surgically corrected. On the other hand, Baba is often critical of Amir, considering him weak and lacking in courage, even threatening to physically punish him when he complains about Hassan. Amir finds a kinder fatherly figure in Rahim Khan, Baba’s closest friend, who understands him and supports his interest in writing. In a rare moment when Amir is sitting on Baba’s lap rather than being shooed away as a bother he asks why his father drinks alcohol which is forbidden in Islam. Baba tells him that the Mullahs are hypocrites and the only real sin is theft which takes many forms.

    Assef, an older boy with a sadistic taste for violence, mocks Amir for socializing with a Hazara, which according to him, is an inferior race whose members belong only to Hazarajat. Assef is himself is half Pashtun, having a German mother and a typical blond haired blue eyed German appearance. One day, he prepares to attack Amir with brass knuckles, but Hassan defends Amir, threatening to shoot out Assef’s eye with his slingshot. Assef backs off but swears to take revenge one day.

    One triumphant day, Amir wins the local kite fighting tournament and finally earns Baba’s praise. Hassan runs for the last cut kite, a great trophy, saying to Amir, “For you, a thousand times over.” However, after finding the kite, Hassan encounters Assef in an alleyway. Hassan refuses to give up the kite, and Assef severely beats him and buggers him. Amir witnesses the act but is too scared to intervene. He knows that if he fails to bring home the kite, Baba would be less proud of him. He feels incredibly guilty but knows his cowardice would destroy any hopes for Baba’s affections, so he keeps quiet about the incident. Afterwards, Amir maintains a distance from Hassan. His feelings of guilt prevent him from interacting with the Hassan. Hassan’s mental and physical well-being gradually begins to deteriorate.

    Amir begins to believe that life would be easier if Hassan were not around, so he plants a watch and some money under Hassan’s mattress in hopes that Baba will make him leave; Hassan falsely confesses when confronted by Baba. Although Baba believes “there is no act more wretched than stealing”, he forgives him. To Baba’s sorrow, Hassan and Ali leave anyway, because Hassan has told Ali what happened to him. Amir is freed of the daily reminder of his cowardice and betrayal, but he still lives in their shadow.

Part II

In 1979, five years later, the Soviet Union militarily intervenes in Afghanistan. Baba and Amir escape to Peshawar, Pakistan, and then to Fremont, California, where they settle in a run-down apartment. Baba begins work at a gas station. After graduating from high school, Amir takes classes at San Jose State University to develop his writing skills. Every Sunday, Baba and Amir make extra money selling used goods at a flea market in San Jose. There, Amir meets fellow refugee Soraya Taheri and her family. Baba is diagnosed with terminal cancer but is still capable of granting Amir one last favour. He asks Soraya’s father’s permission for Amir to marry her. He agrees and the two marry. Shortly thereafter Baba dies. Amir and Soraya settle down in a happy marriage, but to their sorrow, they learn that they cannot have children.

    Amir embarks on a successful career as a novelist. Fifteen years after his wedding, Amir receives a call from his father’s best friend (and his childhood father figure) Rahim Khan. Khan, who is dying, asks Amir to visit him in Peshawar. He enigmatically tells Amir, “There is a way to be good again.”

Part III

    From Rahim Khan, Amir learns that Hassan and Ali are both dead. Ali was killed by a land mine. Hassan and his wife were killed after Hassan refused to allow the Taliban to confiscate Baba and Amir’s house in Kabul. Rahim Khan further reveals that Ali was sterile and was not Hassan’s biological father. Hassan was actually the son of Sanaubar and Baba, making him Amir’s half-brother. Finally, Khan tells Amir that the reason he has called Amir to Pakistan is to ask him to rescue Hassan’s son, Sohrab, from an orphanage in Kabul.

    Amir looks for Sohrab, accompanied by Farid, an Afghan taxi driver and veteran of the war with the Soviets. They learn that a Taliban official comes to the orphanage often, brings cash, and usually takes a girl away with him. Occasionally he chooses a boy, recently Sohrab. The orphanage director tells Amir, how to find the official, and Farid secures an appointment at his home by claiming to have “personal business” with him.

    Amir meets the Taliban leader, who reveals himself as Assef. Sohrab is being kept at Assef’s house as a dancing boy. Assef agrees to relinquish him if Amir can beat him in a fight. Assef then badly beats Amir, breaking several bones, until Sohrab uses a slingshot to fire a brass ball into Assef’s left eye. Sohrab helps Amir out of the house, where he passes out and wakes up in a hospital.

    Amir tells Sohrab of his plans to take him back to America and possibly adopt him. However, American authorities demand evidence of Sohrab’s orphan status. Amir tells Sohrab that he may have to go back to the orphanage for a little while as they have encountered a problem in the adoption process, and Sohrab, terrified about returning to the orphanage, attempts suicide. Amir eventually manages to take him back to the United States. After his adoption, Sohrab refuses to interact with Amir or Soraya until Amir reminisces about Hassan and kites and shows off some of Hassan’s tricks. In the end, Sohrab only gives a lopsided smile, but Amir takes it with all his heart as he runs the kite for Sohrab, saying, “For you, a thousand times over.”

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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THE MUSLIM RANT OF DONALD TRUMP

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

 

    Donald Trump was being willfully scandalous. When he recently said that the U.S. should shut its doors on all Muslims, as his verbal assault. To the equally outrageous gunning down of civilians in California by a couple, owning allegiance to ISIS. Was it a campaign stunt to pacify the public mood, or just a stray ambient outburst one can’t say. But any which way Trump shot himself in the foot with this off the cuff remark. A person of Trump’s stature who happens to be a billionaire and an aspirant for the Republican nomination surely overlooked the demographic sketch of his own country. Whether by sheer ignorance or design he alone knows but by doing so he labeled Muslims in general as the derogatory stereotype.

    On the other hand ‘Uncle Sam’ poses itself as the big daddy of the world. Showing deep concern for everyone in the planet. Simultaneously, it even keeps track of the maze of weaponry better than anyone else in the world. It also preaches terrorism to be a curse, yet remains one of the largest suppliers of arms in the world.  With these analogies one can safely say. Donald Trump exactly knew what he wanted to say. It it was not just an, off the cuff remark. So, it may not be out of context to contend. He orated what the Republicans had in mind?

    If we for a moment run through the world’s demography. We will find, out of a total world population of 7.26 billion people; 2.40 billion (33.06%) are Christians; 1.70 billion (23.41%) are Muslims; 1.13 billion (15.56%) belong to the unaffiliated religions (The religiously unaffiliated include atheists, agnostics and people who do not identify with any particular religion); 1.08 billion (14.87%) are Hindus; 0.49 billion (6.75%) are Buddhists; 0.40 billion (5.50%) practice the Folk Religion (The precise definition of folk religion varies among scholars. Sometimes also termed popular belief, it consists of ethnic or regional religious customs under the umbrella of a religion, but outside of official doctrine and practices); 0.06 billion (0.83%) belong to the other religions and 0.01 billion (0.01%) are Jews.

    Islam therefore, is the second largest faith on earth with around 1.7 billion adherents, and not just a docile race that Trump’s U.S can think of doing without. But currently it is quite definitely under duress, going through some trying times because of Islamic fundamentalism, that is at its worst. As it perpetrates holocausts in the form of terrorism. Because of which, average Muslims are losing their sheen and are not apparently welcomed in some of the most developed and powerful countries and continents of the world such as the U.S., Europe, South America, Australia, New Zealand to name a few, for no fault of theirs. But by ranting about Muslims Donald Trump has not only added salt to their wounds but has also hoodwinked the American public in general. For, you can shut your doors on Muslims only when its flooding, but not when its merely seeping.

    If we analyze most religions vis-à-vis countries and colonies. We will find there are: 161 countries where Christianity is in a majority; 49 where Muslims are in a majority; 7 countries where unaffiliated religions rule the roost; 3 countries where Hindus are in a majority; 7 where Buddhists are in a majority; 3 countries where folk religion is in a majority and 1 where the Jews are in a majority.

    The data above only tells us that the World Muslim Population by percentage (Pew Research Center, 2014), constitutes the world’s second largest religious group. And if we dig in a little more on the Muslim population across the world we will find.

Concentration of Muslim population

    66% of the world’s Muslims reside in Asia and the Middle East. They are 27% of the total population of Asia and Middle East with around 1.12 billion adherents, and thus the heart of Muslim civilization on earth. And it is notable they share space with over a billion Hindus in the same region. Balance 34% of the Muslim population is spread across other continents and countries such as Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Australia & New Zealand, Melanesia, Caribbean, Micronesia, Mexico & Central America and Polynesia.

    Africa is home to 26% of the world’s Muslim population and 43% of Africa’s population is Muslim. So not surprisingly, Asia, Middle East and Africa together notch up 92% of the world’s Muslim population. And only a paltry 8% is left for the powerful and affluent countries and continents to share. Out of that let us glance at Europe and America.

    Europe has a total of 2.56 % of the world’s Muslim population and 5.85% of Europe’s population is Muslim. If we take Australia and New Zealand, 0.03% of the world’s Muslim population lives there which is 2.2% of their population. South America is home to just around 6.7 lac Muslims which is around 0.04% of the world Muslim population and 0.17% of their own population.

But coming back specifically to Donald Trump; North America is home to only around 35.08 lac Muslims which is only 0.2% of the world’s Muslim population and only 1.02% of their total population. Coming to the U.S. in particular, it is home to only 0.16% of world’s Muslim population, which is only 0.9% of their own population. So the point is, whether Trump says it or not. The Muslim population unlike Asia, Middle East and Africa has traditionally been extremely low in the U.S. and whether it was restricted by design or was never a favourite habitat of the Muslims in particular is a different question altogether.

   A Breibart News review of the State Department and Homeland Security data reveals. United States, admits more than a quarter of a million Muslim migrants each year. To this President Obama intends to add another 10,000 Syrian migrants. In 2013 alone 1,17,423 migrants from Muslim majority countries were permanently  resettled, within the United States. Additionally in 2013 the US voluntarily admitted an extra 1,22,921 temporary migrants from Muslim countries, as foreign students and foreign workers as well as 39,932 refugees from other Muslim countries.

    Even though every year the U.S. admits a number of Muslim migrants. Larger in size than the entire population of Des Moines, Oowa, Lincoln, Nebraska or Dayton or Ohio. Yet it still remains a miniscule and therefore it is not flooding but seeping, where closing of doors doesn’t help.

    The lethal point therefore is that US cannot do without the best of brains whether they come from Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Unaffiliated, Buddhist, Folk Religion, Jews or any other religion; And Trump’s US will have to realize, that you can’t continue to be the big daddy of the world by closing doors on faiths just because of a few rotten apples.

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MAKE #CRICKET AS POPULAR AS #SOCCER–START ANOTHER #WORLD #CUP AMONGST CRICKET PLAYING CONTINENTS

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

In the Cricket world cup 2015 only fourteen teams are playing. Which are divided into two pools that will play 49 matches in two countries, to decide the world cup title. International Cricket Council (ICC) recognizes more than 125 countries that play cricket. But many are not up to the mark to be included in the international circuit, such as the World Cup. ICC has 10 full members, 38 Associate Members and 59 Affiliate Members and that adds up to 107 countries. The West Indies cricket team does not represent a single country.

The world today has 196 countries and with that logic, cricket looks like an isolated game with only 14 countries, vying for the world cup which is far from a world phenomenon. Even when the cheer and clapping is getting louder each day as the tournament progresses in those 14 countries. And so, this magnificent pageant that is hosted every 4 years is only witnessed by a small section of the world. As the game is not as popular as soccer which is played in almost all the countries.

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In the same fashion we also have the shorter version of the game called the T-20 cricket world cup, every four years. And, in addition we keep having individual test matches, ODIs and T-20 series between countries which are generally followed by the supporters of their respective countries only. Recently, BCCI has also launched IPL series to promote, both domestic and international cricket. But, even with all of this, cricket is not getting sold exponentially beyond the 14 countries that participate in the world cup. So, there is a greater need to popularize cricket in less and non-cricket playing countries, by shedding traditional, autocratic and bureaucratic ways of thinking and dealing with cricket.

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The 14 countries that currently play in the international world cup circuit are- India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangla Desh, Australia, New Zealand, Afghanistan, UAE, South Africa, Zimbabwe, West Indies, England, Ireland & Scotland.

This more or less promotes cricket in their respective countries only, and to a certain extent in their neighbouring countries. But if cricket needs to spread to other countries by leaps and bounds. Something out-of-the-box needs to be thought through. A better way of popularizing cricket would be to have another world class tournament. Where, we could bunch teams of 3-4 countries, continent wise, and have a world cup tournament amongst them, such as;

Team 1: India, Sri Lanka & Bangladesh

Team 2: Australia, New Zealand

Team 3: Pakistan, Afghanistan and UAE

Team 4: South Africa, Zimbabwe

Team 5: West Indies, England, Ireland and Scotland

HOW WILL THIS HELP IN PROMOTING CRICKET?

Cricket was never played in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, since Adam was a lad. It only came along with the Britishers and became an endearing and formidable game, close to a religion. Which goes to show, if publicized, facilitated and marketed well. It has the potential to become a game as popular as soccer.

Individual countries, and more pointedly India, may have done well to promote cricket in their own country. But Cricket as such has not seen a deluge of popularity, breaking barriers of borders and continents. Rather, it cocooned in its ego and bureaucracy and never butterflied across the world as soccer or lawn tennis. To sight and example, for so many years Bangladesh had to wait to get Test status and same goes for countries like Ireland and Scotland, that are still waiting.

WHAT WILL CHANGE BY BUNCHING TEAMS AND HAVING A WORLD CUP AMONGST CONTINENTS?

Just citing an example. Increase the team members in the squad of Team 1, as referred above (India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh) by 3-5 and include new talent from China, Nepal, Myanmar, Maldives or any other country close by and give them a chance in warm up matches, or even just let them be with the team or include them in practice sessions or as twelfth man to be viewed by spectators back home. As this also will popularize the game back in their countries in a big way. For, didn’t it suddenly make a world of difference when some of our athletes were seen on world stage, in various disciplines at the Olympics?

And, hold this world cup tournament among continents every two years. As this will help in good publicity and brand building because public memory is too short, and keep the venue in some non-playing country or countries that play, but are not world class like China, Nepal, Myanmar, Maldives, Kabul, Spain, or the US to name a few. Request their dignitaries or popular figures to inaugurate and play the game at these inaugural matches. ICC is rich and could allocate a budget for this. Also, give special incentives including discounted tickets to tourists who want to watch the game of cricket from non-cricket playing countries. And just before the tournament, legendary and star cricketers depending upon their popularity like Sachin Tendulkar, Imran Khan, Viv Richards, Ricky Ponting, Sanat Jaisurya, to name a few, could give cricketing lessons to youngsters who want to play cricket.

Give this world cup tournament a well thought through, heavy weight title, making it look like a competition among titans, continents, giants, bravo juggernauts or even ET. For, this will have a domino effect in popularizing the game by leaps and bounds. Especially, in non playing continents or even non-playing countries or countries where the game is not played to its full potential. For where is the continued rejoice if the game continues to hover and be competed around in the same surroundings. Perhaps, the present day cricket may give you a feeling. As if it has been discarded and rejected by rest of the world and only adopted by few countries, with world potential still to be realized; and all in the interest of cricket.

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ARTICLE: KILLING FOR FALSE HONOUR, BUT DYING FOR REAL LOVE

Islamabad and Delhi are located around seven hundred km apart and are divided by an explosive and turbulent international border, with ever increasing aggressive efforts to keep each side sanitized from the overall influence of the other. Yet there appears to be a commonality of sorts that refuses to die. The madness of honour killing. The ethnicity of large parts of Pakistan and that of north India was never too different before independence and even now per se. But post independence India opened up, and moved on- though not whole hog. But Pakistan preferred to remain where it was, rather took some steps backwards.

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Yalda Hakim, Afghanistan born correspondent and presenter of BBC World News, highlights. How in Pakistan women who dare to pursue relationships of their own choice are in danger of losing their lives. She says in her recently published article in TOI- “Dying for Love”

‘In a country fighting to preserve patriarchal and tribal traditions, Pakistan’s women can face brutality- and even death- if they fall in love with the wrong person.

Arifa 25, dared to stand up to her family, running away with the man she fell in love with and secretly marrying him. The following day in a busy street in Karachi, Pakistan’s most populous city, her male family members surrounded the newlyweds and, at gunpoint, dragged Arifa away. After great difficulty her husband, Abdul Malik, managed to establish that she was alive and had been hidden somewhere. Fearing for his life, he has lived in hiding for three months. He says,

“In Pakistan, love is a big sin. Centuries have passed, the world has made so much progress- men have reached the heavens. But our men are still following age-old customs –which focus on denying women freedom.”

In May 2014, the case of the young pregnant woman Farzana Parveen shocked the world. She was stoned to death by her family for marrying the man she was in love with, rather than the man they had chosen for her. This happened outside Lahore high court, in front of the policemen and passersby.

In November, following worldwide media attention, Parveen’s father, brother, cousin and former fiancé were all found guilty of murder and given death sentence. But more often than not, those who commit these brutal acts against women are never charged, protected by tribal laws.

Last year alone, more than 1,000 women were murdered for so-called honour crimes. Some hard-line religious scholars believe that only through the killing of an offending family member-usually a woman-can honour be restored to the rest of the family and tribe. Few people in Pakistan nowadays are willing to challenge these tribal traditions and customs. In fact, according to a recent survey, an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis support the full implementation of Sharia law- Islam’s legal system.’

In 1979, General Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s military dictator, introduced the so called Hudood Ordinance- a controversial set of laws that attempted to Islamise Pakistan. Among other things, it made adultery punishable by stoning and lashing. In 2006, the then President Pervez Musharraf tried to protect women, but the enforcement of his reforms has been limited and adultery remains a crime. Karachi’s central prison for women is where many of those accused of adultery end up.’

BUT IS NORTH INDIA ANY DIFFERENT THAN PAKISTAN IN TERMS OF HONOUR KILLINGS?

Yes only in terms of the scale which is less. While we can say what happens in Pakistan is barbaric, but then honour killings are often reported in the northern regions of India also, and mainly from the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh as a result of marrying without their family’s acceptance and sometimes also for marrying outside their caste.

And in contrast honour killings are a rarity in South India and the western states of Maharastra and Gujarat. In some other parts of India, notably West Bengal, honour killings completely ceased about a century ago, largely due to activism and influence of reformists such as Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, Vidyasagar and Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Wish they had also spread their activism in North India.

REPORTS OF SOME SPECIFIC HONOUR KILLINGS IN NORTH INDIA

The Indian state of Punjab has a large number of honour killings. According to the data compiled by the Punjab Police, 34 honour killings were reported in the state between 2008 and 2010: 10 in 2008, 20 in 2009 and four in 2010’

Haryana is also notorious for incidents of honour killing, mainly in the upper caste of the society, among Rajputs and Jaats; considered literate. And, so can we say it has nothing to do with literacy levels?

Bhagalpur in the eastern state of Bihar has also been notorious for honour killings. Recent cases include a 16-year-old girl, Imrana, from Bhojpur who was set on fire inside her house in a case of what the police called ‘moral vigilantism.’ The victim had screamed for help for about 20 minutes before neighbours arrived, only to find her smouldering body. She was admitted to a local hospital, where she later died from her injuries. In May 2008, Jayvirsingh Bhadodiya shot his daughter Vandana Bhadodiya and struck her on the head with an axe. In June some incidents were reported from Delhi.

In June 2012, a man chopped off his 20-year-old daughter’s head with a sword in Rajasthan after learning that she was dating men. According to police officer Omkar Singh, the accused told the court that his daughter Manju had relations with several men. He had asked her to mend her ways several times in the past. However, she did not pay heed. Out of pure rage, he chopped off her head with the sword.

A young couple who were planning to marry were brutally murdered in Garnauthi village, state of Haryana on 18 September 2013 because they were having a love affair. The woman, Nidhi, was beaten to death and the man, Dharmender, was dismembered alive. People in the village and neighbouring villages approved of the killings.

MEASURES AGAINST HONOUR KILLINGS

In 1990 the National Commission for Women set up a statutory body in order to address the issues of honor killings among some ethnic groups in North India. This body reviewed constitutional, legal, and other provisions as well as challenges women faced. The NCW’s activism has contributed significantly towards the reduction of honor killings in rural areas of North India. According to Pakistani activists Hina Jilani and Eman M. Ahmed, Indian women are considerably better protected against honor killings by Indian law and government than Pakistani women, and they have suggested that governments of countries affected by honor killings use Indian law as a model in order to prevent honor killings in their respective societies.

In a landmark judgement in March 2010, Karnal district court ordered the execution of five perpetrators of an honour killing in Kaithal, and imprisoning for life the khap (local caste-based council) chief who ordered the killings of Manoj Banwala (23) and Babli (19) a man and woman of the same clan who eloped and married in June 2007. Despite having been given police protection on court orders, they were kidnapped; their mutilated bodies were found a week later in an irrigation canal.

In June 2010, scrutinizing the increasing number of honor killings, the Supreme Court of India issued notices to the Central Government and six states including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, to take preventive measures against honor killings.

Alarmed by the rise of honor killings, the Government planned to bring a bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament July 2010 to provide for deterrent punishment for ‘honor’ killings.

In recent times, the Khap system has attracted criticism from groups, citing the stark prejudice that such groups allegedly hold against others. Women’s Organisation AIDWA has made allegations, in some cases where the Khaps are alleged to have initiated threats of murder and violence to couples who marry outside of the circle.

Supreme Court has declared these ‘Khap panchayats’ as illegal, which often decree or encourage honour killings or other institutionalised atrocities against boys and girls of different castes and religions who wish to get married or have married.

So honour killing is utterly illegal and has to be ruthlessly stamped out. There is no honour in these killings and atrocities. In fact, it is nothing else but barbaric and shameful. Brutal atrocities committed by feudal-minded persons deserve very harsh punishments. And only by acting against it can we stamp out this atrocious feudal mentality. The other thing that needs to be crushed along with it are the Kangaroo courts that are mushrooming all over.

But in all of this the most scathing has been the behavior of some political parties both in Pakistan and India who in the interest of votes have never taken a bulldozing approach either jointly or severally towards all such individuals and self styled institutions who promote honour killings.

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