At a discussion meeting organized by Centre for Social Research and Women Power Connect, women leaders, activists and social experts strongly condemned the “honour” killings that have stirred the nation over the course of this year. Speakers at the meeting included Dr. Kiran Bedi, Retired IPS Officer; Ms. Rashmi Singh, Director, Mission Convergence; Dr. Ranjana Kumari, Director, CSR; Rishi Kant; Shakti Vahini and Dr. N. Hamsa, Executive Director, WomenPowerConnect.
The last few months have seen a sudden spurt in the cases of honour killings in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Haryana. These cases cut across all cultures, communities and background and it appears the reasons are not merely related to same-gotra (family) marriages. Parents, siblings, and villagers are opting to eliminate their sons and daughters who are choosing to marry a person of their choice.
Calling the practice “a stark violation of legal human rights”, the speakers expressed the need to fight back for a better legal mechanism and stringent punishment for those responsible behind these killings. “We appeal to the Prime Minister to break his silence on the issue and take this matter in his own hands. The issue of honour killings needs to be addressed on an urgent basis as it has already led to the deaths of numerous young innocent couples,”said our Director, Dr. Ranjana Kumari.
Highlighting the need for a multi–faceted strategy to address this problem, Bedi said, “Honour killings are India’s knee jerk reaction to modernisation. A multi–pronged strategy would involve coordinated efforts from all ministries.” Bedi also spoke about a detailed plan to involve various committees to take firm action against honour killings. “The idea is to educate the society as a whole and make them responsible citizens,” she said. Recently, the government announced a group of ministers designated to work out an effective law against honour killings. The BJP (a nationalistic political party in India) also recently demanded setting up of fast-track courts to deal with such cases.
This recent meeting also emphasized the influence of khap panchayats as a major cause of honour killings. The khap has been a system of social administration and organization in the northwestern states of India since ancient times. These khaps are spread all the way from Northwest India down to Madhya Pradesh, Malwa, Rajasthan, Sindh, Multan, Punjab, Haryana and modern Uttar Pradesh. Although their rulings have no legal validity, they are very powerful and are successful in keeping with their so-called traditions. Oftentimes, khap panchayats and their leaders are being seen as protectors of the poor but are aggressors towards these underprivileged couples and families. Instead of helping them, they try to impose their judgments on them. Their tyranny is mostly felt in traditional rural habitations since very little or no cases have been reported from urban areas.