(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India
TO UNION HOME MINISTER
is No Honour in Killing”
ON June 25, Delhi state units of the All India Democratic Women’s
Association (AIDWA), Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI),
Students Federation of India (SFI), Delhi Teachers Front (DTF), Jana
Natya Manch (JANAM) and Jan Sanskriti (JS) staged held a dharna at
Jantar Mantar from 11 am to 2 pm. Over 200 persons participated in the
dharna demanding a comprehensive law against ‘honour’ killings. The
gathering was addressed by representatives of all these organisations.
Addressing the gathering, Brinda Karat, Rajya Sabha member, highlighted
the social, political and legal aspects of ‘honour’ killings, and
demanded that the UPA government should formulate a comprehensive law
against ‘honour’ killings covering all aspects of such crimes including
public humiliation, sexual assault, etc, rather than adopting a
piecemeal approach that does not cover the entire gamut of issues
involved in this crime.
On this occasion, the protesting organisations submitted the
following memorandum to the home minister of the union government.
The recent spate of ‘honour’ killings in Delhi and other parts of
the country have outraged all democratic minded people of our country.
The right of any individual to choose their life partner is a basic
democratic right. This right is guaranteed by the norms of any
democratic, civilised society as well as by the Indian constitution.
However, the brutality, barbarism and impunity with which young couples
are being murdered in the name of caste, community and family ‘honour’
is a matter of great shame and reflects serious lacunae in the criminal
justice system as well as the lack of decisive political will on part
of the government towards curbing such incidents.
The recent spate of ‘honour’ killings in Delhi, which has outraged
the nation, is just the tip of the iceberg. The Asha Saini-Yogesh Kumar
Jatav murders or the Kuldeep-Monica-Shobha murders have come to light
either because aggrieved members of the family lodged complaints with
the police or the cases came under media scrutiny. Asha Saini and
Yogesh were bound, beaten, stabbed and electrocuted to death by Asha’s
father Suraj Kumar Saini and uncle Om Prakash. Her mother, Maya, aunt
Khushboo and cousin Sanjeev were also involved. The killings of Monica
and her husband Kuldeep, four years after marriage, along with sister
Shobha, by Monica’s brothers Ankit Gujjar and Mandeep Nagar, with their
friend Nakul Khari were clearly premeditated murders. They were shot to
death. Monica’s cousin Khushboo, who recently married outside her
caste, also faces threats. Monica’s uncle, Dharmaveer Nagar, who has
been seen openly justifying the murders, has been correctly arrested
for making provocative statements amounting to incitement of violence.
Similar stern steps are also necessary against all such elements
including representatives of the khap panchyats elsewhere in the
The real test in these cases, however, will be the strength of
investigation and prosecution against the culprits. It must be ensured
that watertight cases are prepared in both these cases against the
accused and the Police do not file weak charge sheets in the courts,
allowing the accused to either escape scot-free or evade deserving
punishments. The perpetrators of these brutal and pre-meditated
murders, those involved in the conspiracy to murder as well as those
providing logistical and other support and justification must be
awarded exemplary punishments without delay. Yogesh’s sister, Renu,
must also get full protection from the state, since complainants are
often coerced, threatened and intimidated.
While dealing with such offences, the government must not lose
sight of the gender component of these crimes. It is not a coincidence
that ‘honour’ crimes are generally perpetrated by the woman’s family,
as is evident from the recent cases in Delhi as well as other instances
like Nirupama Pathak, Nitish Katara, etc. Numerous instances of such
murders do not even reach the purview of the criminal justice system.
Several young girls are killed by family members at the mere whiff of
possible interest in a boy of another caste or community. These deaths
are passed off as natural deaths. Provisions need to be made to monitor
any sudden death, particularly of young girls, to deter such crimes.
Moreover, other forms of violence to prevent or nullify ‘own-choice’ or
‘love’ marriages need to be brought within the purview of suitable and
related laws. These include public humiliation, threats, physical
assault, sexual assault, forced marriages, denial of property share,
etc. Consenting families are also coerced or victimised through various
extra-constitutional means like social boycott, economic victimisation,
forced removal from place of residence, etc.
In our experience, the Delhi Police often plays a negative role in
instances where young couples escape from hostile family members in
order to get married. The police are proactive in registering
complaints of kidnapping on the charge of family members. Couples are
often traced, exposed to the hostile pressures of their families or
restored to the custody of their respective families. If the families
of either party play a supportive role, intimidation and threat are
used by the police to pressurise the consenting family to produce the
couple. Efforts are made to prevent or nullify marriages. Even in event
of marriage, if the girl succumbs under pressure or is unaware of her
rights, cases of rape are registered against the boy. The threat of
registering such cases is also used to exert pressure to withdraw from
the relationship. At a time when the Supreme Court has issued notices
to the centre as well as several state governments regarding measures
undertaken to prevent ‘honour’ killings, any reply that does not
uncover the truth behind cases of kidnapping registered by the police
will be incomplete and evasive.
The provisions for couples desiring security are also extremely
problematic. Only a DCP level officer can evaluate the perception of
threat and sanction police protection. It is extremely difficult for
ordinary citizens to obtain such a security cover. Otherwise, a couple
has to approach the courts, which in turn can order police protection.
Instances where such protection is provided are rare. The case of
Gurleen and her mother-in-law who were hacked to death in Tarn Taran
while under the protection of the Punjab and Harayana High Court
exposes the callous approach towards such protection. Kuldeep and
Monica had also applied for police protection, but ultimately in vain.
Instances, where families conspire against couples for months and years
after marriage are coming to light. They demonstrate the futility of
adopting a mechanical approach towards security. Provision of security
in combination with a proactive approach wherein family members,
relatives and self-appointed custodians of ‘honour’ like khap
panchayats are made culpable for a combination of disciplinary action
in event of any harm to a couple will produce better results.
It is a matter of common knowledge that the Special Marriages Act
of 1954 allows for civil marriages between consenting adults. However,
the provisions of this Act amount to nothing less than discouraging own
choice marriages. Provisions like a minimum waiting period of one
month, proof of birth, proof of at least 30 days of residence in the
concerned district, copy of ration card for proof of permanent
residence or authentication by SHO or a gazetted officer, public notice
as well as notice of information served to family members, etc make
this Act very difficult to employ in case of marriages that are opposed
by family members. The provisions of this Act undoubtedly need to be
simplified to facilitate own choice marriages. Well publicised and
easily accessible bodies need to be made so that couples opting for own
choice marriages can easily inform the government about their
intentions and avoid unjust police action and harassment. Safe shelters
and other support also need to be provided to such couples. All this requires the
formulation of a comprehensive law against ‘honour’ killings in our
The most alarming aspect of this entire sorry state of affairs is
the impunity with which family members, panchayats or community members
are justifying and glorifying such murders. Their confidence is
emanating from the tentative and unprincipled approach shown by the
government towards such crimes. Statements in support of khap
panchayats by Haryana CM or MPs like Navin Jindal are only providing
strength to such elements. Paying lip service against honour killings
while endorsing the very bodies that are taking a lead in perpetrating
such crimes smacks of not only opportunism but also sheer disregard
towards the law of the land. Such acts by elected members also merit
strict action. They cannot be explained away as mere compulsions of
electoral politics. Our parliamentary democracy is guided by the
principles enshrined in the Indian constitution. Political
mobilisations that are based on undermining and challenging those very
principles must be firmly dealt with. It is disappointing that no such
resolve has been visible on part of the government yet.
It is clear that more and more young citizens of our country are
opting for own choice marriages. No one should be allowed to violate
this basic democratic right in the name of tradition or ‘honour’.
Families, relatives and extra constitutional bodies that are taking the
law into their own hands need to be disciplined. The union government
must take a lead in ensuring that all practices that violate democratic
rights enshrined in the constitution are confronted without fail. Any
other approach would only prove that the government is willing to turn
a blind eye to gross criminal practices while maintaining a façade of
modernity, democracy and progress.
Through their memorandum, the concerned organisations of Delhi
demanded that the above-mentioned exemplary and comprehensive measures
must be taken against ‘honour’ killings without delay.