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.
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.