People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIV

No. 14

April 04, 2010

EDITORIAL

 

End This Tyranny

 

THE judgment by a Karnal sessions court sentencing five persons to death and life imprisonment to another is the first serious action taken in Haryana against the shameful and barbaric practice of honour killings decreed by the khap (caste) panchayats. The verdict has been given in the case of the brutal murder of Babli and Manoj, a young couple who were killed in June 2007. This singular judicial action should hopefully spur the Haryana government and administration to take firm measures to prevent such illegal and murderous acts against young couples who transgress so-called social and caste conventions.   Honour killings are not confined to Haryana alone. It is a widespread practice in Western Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and in varying degrees in other parts of the country.  

 

Caste panchayats have been issuing diktats including the death sentence on young men and women who violate what they consider to be the code which prohibits marriage between gotras who are declared to be bound by bhaichara (brotherhood).  These jat caste panchayats in  Haryana  have been administering a medieval form of justice on the offending couples. If the case is of a marriage between a dalit and an uppercaste woman, the vengeance is all the more terrible. Honour killings are not confined to any one religious community. Marriage between a Muslim and a Hindu  would meet with merciless retribution as seen in the case of a Muslim girl, Afsana, marrying a Hindu boy, Manoj, in Meerut district in July 2009. They were butchered by the girl’s family members.

 

Underlying this vicious caste and communal prejudice, is the attitude to women. Women are viewed as the property of the family, the caste and the community. Women have no sovereign right over their bodies and women’s chastity is the “honour” of the community. It is this patriarchal, anti-woman outlook which holds sway, contravening all the constitutional values and rights accorded to women in Republican India.

 

For too long, this feudal outlook and barbarous practices have prevailed just kilometers outside the borders of the Capital of India.  The development of capitalism and the rise of a rural rich strata have not in any way mitigated the influence of these caste panchayats. They have flourished with the active connivance of the police, the administration and the elected representatives. Political parties like the Congress and the INLD have refused to take a stand against khap panchayats as they do not want to antagonise the dominant caste and their support base.

 

Despite the demand that laws be made declaring khap panchayats illegal and a separate law be passed on honour killings, the central government has so far not taken any steps to do so. Now that the union home minister has strongly come out against the barbarity of honour killings, the time has come to translate this into action.

 

The fight against the illegal dictates of  khap panchayats and honour killings in Haryana was courageously taken up by the state unit of the All India Democratic Women’s Association.  In incident after incident, the women’s organisation took up the cause of the victims and their families including the Manoj and Babli killings.  The CPI(M) in Haryana, unlike the major political parties, has categorically come out against the activities of the khap panchayats.

 

All democratic forces should demand that a separate law be adopted against honour killings and to illegalise those activities of the khap panchayats which go against the constitution.  Firm and deterrent action must be taken against the offenders whenever such incidents occur. It is the responsibility of political parties to stand up for the right of young women and men to marry according to their choice. It is time that the tyranny of khap panchayats and regressive, anti-women social practices are put an end to. It is the duty of all progressive political and social organisations to ceaselessly campaign and rouse the consciousness of the people against these social evils.