Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Whose Honor Is It Any Way?

To be young and in love has proved to be fatal for many in parts of north India. The increasingly bigoted society refuses to accept violation of its rigid code of decorum, when it comes to women. While surfing net on the issue I come across tons of data full of horrors and bestiality of egocentric societies.

It makes head hang in shame and is utterly nauseating:

· Central to the theme of honor and violence is the subordinate position of girls and women in all castes and communities.

· A woman's chastity is the "honor" of the community

· The acts of violence include public lynching of couples, murder of either the man or the woman concerned, murder made to appear as suicide, public beatings, humiliation, blackening of the face, forcing couples or their families to eat excreta or drink urine, forced incarceration, social boycotts and the levying of fines.

· One reason for the increased visibility of such crimes is the trend of more and more girls joining educational institutions, meeting others from different backgrounds and castes and establishing relationships beyond the confines of caste and community. Such individuals, both boys and girls, are being targeted so that none dares to breach the barriers of castes and communities.

· Caste panchayats have come to play an increasingly important role in Haryana and elsewhere, especially in situations where political patronage also exists.

· Honor killing is a long prevalent problem of egocentric society

Honor Killings in Irving, USA:

The sisters, 17-year-old Sarah and 18-year-old Amina Said, were killed on New Year's Day by their father them because they were dating non-Muslim boys and acting too Western.

Honor Killing in Denmark:

The Dark Ages come to Denmark in broad daylight, as a Pakistani man murders his sister in a public street. Calmly and methodically, big brother stoops over his little sister while shooting one projectile after the other into her. Her spouse, affected by several shots to the abdomen, can only look on helplessly, while his wife is executed by her own family.

Horrific Incident in Pakistan:-

Ghazala was set on fire by her brother in Joharabad, Punjab province, on 6 January 1999. According to reports, she was murdered because her family suspected she was having an 'illicit' relationship with a neighbor. Her burned and naked body reportedly lay unattended on the street for two hours as nobody wanted to have anything to do with it. Ghazala was burned to death in the name of honor. Hundreds of other women and girls suffer a similar fate every year amid general public support and little or no action by the authorities. In fact, there is every sign that the number of honor killings is on the rise as the perception of what constitutes honor -- and what damages it -- widens, and as more murders take on the guise of honor killings on the correct assumption that they are rarely punished.

Indian Scenario:
The largest number of cases have occurred in northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh - most of the incidents reported at the convention took place in these three States.

Significantly, in the majority of cases it is the economically and socially dominant castes that organize, instigate and abet such acts of retribution.

“Honor-killings", which are widespread in economically advanced States of Haryana and Punjab, accounting for 10 per cent of all honor killings in the country. It is not surprising that no such category of crime exists in government records. In fact, there is refusal even to recognize this phenomenon. is an example. Perpetrated under the garb of saving the "honor" of the community, caste or family, such incidents occur often as the State governments are not keen to take action.


Poonam was bundled into a waiting jeep on Thursday night and thrown into the Rajasthan canal by her father and six other male members of her Jat family because she wouldn't let go of Mukhram, a young Dalit boy. But the feisty 19-year-old survived drowning, in what would probably have been the umpteenth honor killing in Haryana, to fight back and charge her relatives with attempted murder. But only did she swam to safety, battling her way to the bank of the canal near Tibbi, a settlement on the Rajasthan border, but also approached the police to demand justice. Confirming Poonam's story, SHO Anil Kumar said, "On Friday, a case was registered against the seven accused under sections 307 (attempt to murder), 364 (abduction with intention to kill) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC. All of them are absconding and we are looking for them."

On September 22, members of the Gujjar community in Rajasthan’s Dausa district called a ‘maha panchayat’ to protest the arrest of the killers of a young Gujjar girl who had been murdered, allegedly, to protect her family’s ‘honour’. Fifteen-year-old Neelam’s father, uncle and grandfather are alleged to have murdered the teenager to avenge the slight to their honour by the girl’s elopement with a dalit boy. The Gujjars belong to the category ‘other backward castes’, which is higher in the country’s caste hierarchy than the Bairwa caste to which her dalit husband belonged. Although members of Neelam’s family reportedly confessed, during police interrogation, that it had been an ‘honour killing’, the community panchayat says they will launch an agitation against the arrests. Indeed, in the teenager’s village of Shahadpur there is widespread condemnation of the arrests and anger against women’s right groups that have protested against the girl’s killing.

In Muzaffarnagar district in western Uttar Pradesh, at least 13 honor killings occurred within nine months in 2003. In 2002, while 10 such killings were reported, 35 couples were declared missing. Data for such incidents are seldom available and they would mostly be classified under the category of general crimes. Moreover, most of such cases go unreported and, even when reported, often first information reports [2] are not filed and post-mortems are not conducted.

Honor crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, mostly committed by male family members predominantly against female [relatives] , who are perceived to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by individuals within her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce — even from an abusive husband, or (allegedly) committing adultery .The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a specific way to "dishonor" her family, is sufficient to trigger an attack.[1]

For example, honor killings can sometimes target those who choose boyfriends, lovers or spouses outside of their family's ethnic and/or religious community. Some women who adopt the customs (or religion) of an outside group, may also be more likely to be victims. Furthermore, in certain cultures a raped single woman will garner no bride price if she marries, and thus be considered "worthless" to the family. There is some evidence that homosexuality can also be grounds for honor killing by relatives. Several cases have been suspected but not confirmed. There is also a documented case of a gay Jordanian man who was shot (but not fatally) by his brother.

Many hold the practice to be self-contradictory, since an honor killing is sometimes justified by its participants or supporters, as an attempt to uphold the morals of a religion or a code, which at the same time generally forbids killing as morally wrong.

Countries that allow men to kill female relatives in flagrante delicto (but without premeditation) include:

Syria, Morocco, Haiti and Turkey: Recently Turkey changed its laws concerning honor killings. Persons found guilty of this crime are sentenced to life in prison.

In two Latin American countries: Similar laws were struck down over the past two decades: according to human rights lawyer Julie Mertus "in Brazil, until 1991 wife killings were considered to be noncriminal 'honor killings'; in just one year, nearly eight hundred husbands killed their wives. Similarly, in Colombia, until 1980, a husband legally could kill his wife for committing adultery."

Countries where honor killing is not legal but is frequently ignored in practice include Indian and Pakistan.


Horrors of The Diwali Night

Two teen aged girls were attached by machetes, axes and stones as soon as they got down from a car on Diwali night.

Still unconscious and alive they were set on fire and burned by group of villagers including their own fathers.

Later their burned out bodies were dumped in cremation ground to fuzz the killings.

And what about their mothers…did they have any say in the matter?

They might have been equally enraged to kill them too….we do not know for sure …but seems like a plausible scenario.

And what were their crimes?

Crime number one..they were girls…born in great India…

Crime two they had been too lucky to escaped death as unburned and born child and lived….

Crime three they went to meet boys…

Is this real dusty India we are so proud off?

The scene could have been depressingly similar in so called urban India…

It happened in Kaluvas village about 3 Km from Bhiwani, Haryana, but could have happened in any village of rich Haryana, Punjab and in poor UP too. As rest of village was lost in cacophony of bursting fire crackers and festivities, some determined men seething with coiling knots of anger awaited in darkness. For them their age old concept of honor was supreme and they killed to save it. The horrendous crime might have gone unnoticed but for one tormenting perpetuator.

Just one more incident of honor killing does not shock us Indians and the fat bellied, rosy cheeked police too sat on it.

How could they have felt and acted differently, seeped in same milieu and weight of biases?

The SP claimed to have received no complain at all.

What else can be expected?

But that repenting perpetuator, a sure out cast now, did spill the beans and the crime come to light after about two weeks of that horrible night.

The Theatre of Tragic Comedies

It was indeed heartening to know that the forthcoming Ravindra Manch Theatre Festival will pay a decent fee of 30000 rupees to the performing groups. It was also assumed that the organizing committee would formulate certain criterion for selection of plays and do the difficult task of taking most of the people along. The majority of the members of the committee are experienced and yet they have failed miserably. When asked how they arrived at decisions with in less than half an hour, they have strange defenses.

The scenario resembles a tragic comedy of errors.

The lord convener is rumored to have arrived in foggy stupor and fails to remember any thing worthwhile. But was aware enough to select a play written by him, already staged by his group espousing cause of revolution and perennial fight against million injustices across the world. The gentleman has made a name for slapping court cases against appointments with out well laid out criteria and those positions still lay vacant. The main reasons for these actions were personal animosities and ideological differences. It is strange to see him indulging in same pathetic practice he was supposed to be against in past. Not so long ago the place was supposed to be going to dogs by actions of the government. Suddenly he did an ideological summersault forgetting the old seething antagonism, joined the bandwagon and started to lord over decrepit Ravindra Manch. Having old friends at powerful positions does help indeed.

One member arrived late and promptly agreed with other members, sparing him of expected tedious deliberations.

Another worthy with ample foresight wisely chose to stay away from impending ugly controversies. Other two members agreed to stage own plays but were thankfully magnanimous enough to gift largess to two others. And Jaipur theatre got five plays out of seven, how that was justified is not clear.

It is sad to witness the shameful conduct of committee members selecting own plays. The fact that nobody differed on an inherently dishonest idea is a matter of greater shame.

Is this the professional theatre, we were so often belittled and mocked at for not having it?

Surprisingly the manager of Ravindra Manch did not make any efforts to stop such grave mistakes being committed and put some semblance of order. Instead she had reported to ask all members to include their own plays and that of an old man who just lobbied so hard. May be the personal friendship of the lord convener with high government officials come in her way. Just another officer appeasing higher ups and not taking a principled stand does not surprise any one now. These are the norms to be followed while waiting for the coveted posting.

The average tenure of the manager at Ravindra Manch is around six months and it has become notorious as a posting of convenience for various reasons. The historic anomaly has been brought to notice of higher ups repeatedly and so far no remedial action has been taken. When an officer if at all about to know the job, the anxiously expected transfer order takes one away from boring lack luster office with its thankless job of dealing with moody and some times agitated artists. It’s indeed a welcome good riddance after few months of recuperating rest.

There has been a sad precedence of members of Rajasthan Sangeet Natak Academy distributing awards between themselves. It was stopped by a court order and later related modifications were made in the guidelines.

For years there have been various attempts to get more governmental funds sanctioned for revival and greater appreciations of efforts involved in theatre productions. But now all that seems to go waste as we witness personal greed overriding larger concerns. The experienced people entrusted with this noble task have proved themselves to be insensitive towards the larger issues involved.

First of all why five plays have been selected from Jaipur alone and on what criterion? Theater groups from other cities should have been given more representation leading to greater interactions between performers along with distribution of funds in a larger way.

But such an exercise could have only been possible after formulation of well thought out objectives of the forthcoming festivals. And that is too much to be expected from people seeped in narrow vision.

Jaipur theatre has been afflicted by deep personal animosities and personality clashes for long. The tradition of meetings for critical assessment and valid criticism so important for fresh creative input are abhorred by most of the directors and actors. At the same time an utterly casual environment is allowed to breed patty differences and jealousies is a matter to be addressed by all involved.

There is a wide spread anger about the shameful spectacle being enacted and the matter seems to heading towards courts. The sorry episode will not bring any glory and the responsibility will rest with the "eminent professionals" at the helms of affairs.