In the global era, south Asian countries are debating the testimonies of mob lynching, love jihad, vigilantism and honour killings. The incidents of violence in the name of religion, caste, creed as well as colour have a significant presence in different parts of India. From 2006 onwards, such kind of violence are occurring in broad daylight and their information is increasingly being shared widely through social media. One such social evil is honour killings, which take place across religious groups in the country.
Honour killings are commonly prevalent in Muslim societies because women are always considered as Honour for a family. Women gets relegated to a secondary position in the family and are imposed with varied restrictions whereas male dominates in every matter and he is free to do anything. The wrong doing of a man does not matter in a patriarchal society like ours, while a single mistake by women, even if unconsciously done, is considered as indiscipline and in some cases the same is taken as dishonour. Till yesterday it was flourishing among some segments of Indian population but today it is increasing. Yesterday, it was a story of Pakistan, Bangladesh and other dominant Muslim majority countries of south Asia. However, today it is the reality in India, where Honour killings are increasing across regions, caste or social strata. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) about 251 cases of Honour killings were registered in 2015 by Indian police as compared with 28 cases in 2014. Uttar Pradesh witnessed highest number of honour killings, followed by Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh respectively. Honour killings are common in both Hindus and Muslims in India, because both communities had strong beliefs in their religious and social beliefs in which women are limited to be an honour but are constantly deprived of entitlements for their human development.
Basically, honour killing are also known as customary killings. It is the murder of a girl by her family or community on the justification that the victim had chosen to marry outside her caste or religion and, hence, brought dishonour upon family or community by such violation. In India, both men and women became victims of such killings who either chooses to wear dresses not acceptable to the narrow social views of the community concerned or chooses his/her partner from different belief or community or possessed in homosexual or heterosexual preferences. According to the Human Rights Watch: “Honour Killing is an act of violence committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to brought dishonour upon the family”
Since the 1980s the Indian government has enacted strict laws for curbing violence against women. However, these laws are framed in books only and on ground reality, violence either domestic, gender, caste or either sexual are prevailing in the Indian society. In rural India, gender violence, particularly Honour killings are happening based on caste and religion. Inter-caste and inter-religious marriages are attracting social boycotts, violence and even killings taking place on the sanction and approval of local community leaders. Such crimes were largely unreported, because of direct or indirect support from the community. In Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, incautious lovers, especially young women, are quite often murdered by their disapproving male relatives. Honour killings are occurring secretly and mostly on the stain of inter-caste and inter-clan liaisons and such killings are occurring with the help of Khap panchayats. A woman gets beaten, burned, strangled to death or forced to commit suicide and this fact is largely ignored whereas male relatives or community leaders, who are involved in such crimes against women are hailed as heroes, publicly honoured and provided with financial supports for fighting the legal case.
One may recall three events that took place recently covering different states of India. First, in the Indian state of Rajasthan, invoking the excuse of love jihad, Afrazul ―a Bengali Muslim labour― was burned alive by a fanatic follower of Hindutva ideology. Second, a pregnant Muslim lady, Banu Begum, was burnt alive by her parents because she married a Dalit man in Karnataka. Third, a five-year-old girl was raped and later killed in the Hisar. All these three events are inhuman and brutal and they should be condemned strongest possible terms. But social responses to these events greatly vary and raises question: Are we biased in dealing with such incidents? Whom shall we support Banu Begum or Shambunath Raigar?
Honour killing is often believed to be an Islamic practice, because of its occurrence in Muslim-majority societies. Islam condemns and forbidden this heinous act, because it is a serious crime and violation of rights of women. However, the narrative of Banu Begum proved that Muslim are far behind and they are yet to understand and obey their own religion that calls for protecting women rights and dignity. For them, women are merely properties/assets to be used for domestic works during the day time and as a tool of leisure at the night. There is nothing in the Holy Book Quran that permits honour killing, however, the view of women as a property owned by men is deeply rooted in Islamic culture, which is proven by the murder of Banu begum.
The fact is that Banu Begum liked a Dalit man Sayabanna Sharnappa Konnur and wanted to share her life with him. Despite the strong opposition of her family members, Banu married Sayabanna in sub registrar’s office in Mundebihal, Karnataka. She began her new life with her husband and was expecting to become a mother soon. The couple thought that Banu Begum’s family would accept their married relationship, which proved to be a mistake and Banu with her unborn baby was burned alive.
This is not a story of only one Banu Begum. This is the story that portrays how women, irrespective of religion and caste, are subjected to ruthless crime in India. It is true that women is really a blessing, but the need of the hour is to protect the blessing from the clutches of violence and to ensure them their basic human rights and empower them in every matter as we are because of them.