Spate of dishonour killings shakes up Punjab

Last Updated: Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 14:39

Spate of honour killings shakes up Punjab
By Jaideep Sarin and Alkesh Sharma (14:07)
Chandigarh, July 14 (IANS) Like the horrific honour killings in neighbouring Haryana, Punjab, one of the country`s most affluent states, has in the last few months witnessed a surge in the murders of young boys and girls in the name of upholding family honour.

Five youngsters have been brutally killed for the sake of "honour" by their own family members and relatives in different parts of the state in the last one and a half months alone. Despite strict guidelines by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to curb incidents of honour killing, the state government and police have been unable to find any effective solution to the problem.

The high court recently ordered both the states to provide shelter homes to runaway couples who marry against the wishes of their families, caste or community and asked police to provide them security.

In one of the latest cases, a Dalit man, who had tried to elope with a girl from the land-owning Jat community, was allegedly kidnapped and murdered by his girlfriend`s family members in Punjab`s Ludhiana district July 4.

Many are calling for urgent measures.

"We need dedicated courts to deal with honour killings in Punjab. Till there is a fear of punishment in the minds of people, we cannot stop them from indulging in this unlawful practice. Courts should make sure that a decision is taken in a maximum of 180 days," Avtar Singh Mullapuri, senior vice president of NGO Lok Bhalai Party, told IANS.

"The government is also adopting a soft approach towards the culprits of honour killings. They do not want to offend people. So far we have not seen even a single case where an exemplary punishment was given to the culprits," said Mullapuri, whose NGO works for Indians stranded abroad.

In another instance of the ghastly crime, a man named Pardeep was murdered by around 10 people, including his wife`s brother, in Nawanshahar June 26. Pardeep had married Balwinder Kaur, who belonged to a different caste, in February this year.

On May 21, a young couple was brutally killed with sharp-edged weapons in Bhullar village of Punjab`s Amritsar district by the girl`s family members. Later, the bodies were thrown at an isolated place.

"Yes, the cases of honour killings have gone up recently. We try to help couples when they complain. Sometimes people try to pass off honour killing cases as plain murders," said a senior police officer, requesting anonymity.

Parmod Sharma, who runs the NGO Yuvsatta here, told IANS: "Honour killing is a problem of not only poor but also well-off sections. We cannot relate it with economic status. That is why one of the country`s most prosperous states is marred by this stigma."

"During the last few decades, we have seen phenomenal development and progress in various areas but at the same time, the problem of honour killings has aggravated. There are very rigid communities that decide the destiny of young boys and girls and there is no value of human life for them," stated Sharma.

Only recently has the media become active and started reporting such cases, Sharma said. Earlier the majority of these cases would go unreported.

In January, a woman and her lover were killed by the former`s brother and sister-in-law in Punjab`s Bathinda town.

"Unlike the West, marriage is not an individual right in India. In Western countries, two individuals stay together, have children and then decide whether they are compatible enough for marriage. But here, you can`t even think of that," said Manjit Singh, an activist.

"In the rural parts of Punjab, the situation is even worse," said a senior faculty member with the sociology department at Panjab University here. "Here we are still living by the preferences of caste, colour, linguistics and religion. We have to understand that marriage is not a legal or social contract but it`s purely a contract between two individuals, without any outside interference," he added.

Shedding some light on the reasons behind these crimes, Singh said: "Nobody wants to kill his child but people succumb under the tremendous pressure of peer groups, kinship or relatives.

"The government has to become more proactive, providing shelters for runaway couples and mere protection will not serve the purpose. There is a need to educate society."

The high court recently ordered both the states to provide shelter homes to runaway couples who marry against the wishes of their families, caste or community and asked police to provide them security.

In one of the latest cases, a Dalit man, who had tried to elope with a girl from the land-owning Jat community, was allegedly kidnapped and murdered by his girlfriend`s family members in Punjab`s Ludhiana district July 4.

Many are calling for urgent measures.

"We need dedicated courts to deal with dishonour killings in Punjab. Till there is a fear of punishment in the minds of people, we cannot stop them from indulging in this unlawful practice. Courts should make sure that a decision is taken in a maximum of 180 days," Avtar Singh Mullapuri, senior vice president of NGO Lok Bhalai Party, told a news agency.

"The government is also adopting a soft approach towards the culprits of dishonour killings. They do not want to offend people. So far we have not seen even a single case where an exemplary punishment was given to the culprits," said Mullapuri, whose NGO works for Indians stranded abroad.

In another instance of the ghastly crime, a man named Pardeep was murdered by around 10 people, including his wife`s brother, in Nawanshahar June 26. Pardeep had married Balwinder Kaur, who belonged to a different caste, in February this year.

On May 21, a young couple was brutally killed with sharp-edged weapons in Bhullar village of Punjab`s Amritsar district by the girl`s family members. Later, the bodies were thrown at an isolated place.

"Yes, the cases of dishonour killings have gone up recently. We try to help couples when they complain. Sometimes people try to pass off dishonour killing cases as plain murders," said a senior police officer, requesting anonymity.

Parmod Sharma, who runs the NGO Yuvsatta here, told a news agency: "Dishonour killing is a problem of not only poor but also well-off sections. We cannot relate it with economic status. That is why one of the country`s most prosperous states is marred by this stigma."

"During the last few decades, we have seen phenomenal development and progress in various areas but at the same time, the problem of dishonour killings has aggravated. There are very rigid communities that decide the destiny of young boys and girls and there is no value of human life for them," stated Sharma.

Only recently has the media become active and started reporting such cases, Sharma said. Earlier the majority of these cases would go unreported.

In January, a woman and her lover were killed by the former`s brother and sister-in-law in Punjab`s Bathinda town.

"Unlike the West, marriage is not an individual right in India. In Western countries, two individuals stay together, have children and then decide whether they are compatible enough for marriage. But here, you can`t even think of that," said Manjit Singh, an activist.

"In the rural parts of Punjab, the situation is even worse," said a senior faculty member with the sociology department at Panjab University here. "Here we are still living by the preferences of caste, colour, linguistics and religion. We have to understand that marriage is not a legal or social contract but it`s purely a contract between two individuals, without any outside interference," he added.

Shedding some light on the reasons behind these crimes, Singh said: "Nobody wants to kill his child but people succumb under the tremendous pressure of peer groups, kinship or relatives.

"The government has to become more proactive, providing shelters for runaway couples and mere protection will not serve the purpose. There is a need to educate society."

IANS



First Published: Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 14:39

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