“Honour killing is the murder of a person accused of bringing shame upon his or her family.
“Out of the 5000 honour killings that occur internationally each year, about 1000 happen in India, and 1000 take place in Pakistan, according to international digital resource centre Honour Based Violence Awareness (HBVA).
“However, where the central criminal justice system is weak or unaffordable, honour killings may be ordered through informal legal systems. This makes the statistics unreliable, as the number of honour killings per year might be much higher than the official reports say.”
“A young woman in West Bengal was gang-raped this week on the order of a village council, to punish her for planning to marry a man from outside the village, according to the Indian police. [...]
“The episode began on Monday when Khaliq Sheikh, the man from outside the village, asked the young woman to marry him, and she accepted his proposal, the police said. When Balai Mardi, the chief of the village, heard about it, he quickly sought to block the marriage.
“According to local news media accounts, villagers went to the young woman’s house and detained Mr. Sheikh, and the next day, he and the young woman were taken to the village square, tied to separate trees and accused of breaking community rules.
“Mr. Mardi ordered the couple to pay fines totaling 27,000 rupees, or about $442, Mr. Yadav said in a telephone interview. Mr. Sheikh paid his portion and was allowed to leave, but when the young woman’s family refused to pay, Mr. Mardi ordered villagers ‘to enjoy her,’ said a police officer who spoke on condition that he not be named.
“She was then raped repeatedly in Mr. Mardi’s mud-and-thatch hut, according to local news reports.
“Mr. Mardi told the young woman and her family that if they reported the rape to the police, the village elders would burn their house down, Mr. Yadav said. [...]
“Village councils are common in rural India. They often enforce strict codes of conduct, and in some cases are deeply involved in deciding who will marry whom. Councils are often worried that marriages to outsiders will dilute communal land claims, among other concerns. Couples who defy the marital codes are sometimes murdered.”
“Indian law prevents discrimination against inter-caste marriage, but, in reality, many remain resistant to such unions in a country where, despite social change and rapid modernisation, tradition still holds sway.
“So-called ‘honour killings’ in which couples are shot, stabbed, lynched or poisoned are still carried out, although in decreasing numbers, as families attempt to defend their reputation thought sullied by a breach of strict caste-based rules. [...]
“Such prejudices mean such inter-caste marriages are few, although the numbers are growing, albeit slowly. Government figures show 9,623 marriages were recorded in 2012 between Dalits and partners from higher groups, compared to 7,617 the year before — a small figure in a country of 1.2 billion people where getting married is considered paramount.
“Local newspapers are full of advertisements from parents seeking partners for their son or daughter from the same caste, and arranged marriages are still common.
“‘Parents may agree with their child's choice (of partner),’ Srinivas Goli, a professor at the Giri Institute of Development Studies in the northern city of Lucknow, tells AFP. ‘But the families’ concerns about the reputation and respect for their families (by the community) often force them to go against’ their child’s choice in such cases, he says.
“Some families themselves fear marginalisation and even physical harm from the rest of the community, particularly in rural and remote areas, if they stand by their children's choices to break caste rules.
“In northern India, male-dominated khap panchayats or village committees wield huge influence in such matters and often act as a kind of moral police.
“Some issue outright bans on inter-caste marriages, while at the same time supporting child marriages within the same caste, according to women’s rights activist Jagmati Sangwan.
“In Haryana state, for example, where khap panchayats are dominant, Dalits are almost entirely landless. And Dalits marrying into higher castes threaten to ‘change the balance of power’ that has been in place for generations, says Sangwan.”
“Almost exactly a year after a 23-year-old woman died after being brutally gang raped in Delhi, a 16-year-old girl from Kolkata died this New Year’s Eve after she was allegedly set on fire by friends of the men who gang raped her twice last October. [...]
“Last fall, the victim was raped by a group of six men in an abandoned house near her family’s home in Kolkata. Her parents found her in a field the next morning. The next day her father, a taxi driver, took her to lodge a police report but on the way back she was allegedly kidnapped and gang raped by the same group of men in a taxi to teach her a lesson. She was found lying near a railway station. [...]
“In another horrific incident, a 20-year-old woman from the southern state of Tamil Nadu was gang raped by two different groups of men within the span of a few hours on Christmas Eve; a week after New Delhi held vigils marking the date when India’s most infamous gang rape took place.”
“Lalasa Devi says that before her attacker grabbed her by the throat, he snarled ‘Chamar,’ the name of the so-called untouchable caste into which she was born. ‘What can you do to me?’
“Then he threw her to the ground and raped her, she says.
“Ms. Devi, a mother of four in her mid-30s, says authorities treated her poorly when she registered a complaint against her alleged assailant, who belongs to a high caste in this small northern Indian village. Nine months after the alleged rape, the man she accused is free on bail, and it isn't clear when a trial will begin.
“‘I’m dying of shame,” she said in a recent interview, covering her head with the corner of her sari. “All I had was my honor... you lose that, you have nothing.” [...]
“Rural, lower-caste women such as Ms. Devi also face pervasive and deeply rooted discrimination against those once called "untouchables"—now known as Dalits, or oppressed people. ‘It’s the mind-set of the dominant castes,’ says Deepika, a Dalit-rights activist in New Delhi who uses only one name. ‘To them, raping a Dalit woman is not a sin.’
“A court in the western state of Rajasthan in 1995 acquitted five men of rape,saying upper-caste men couldn’t have raped a Dalit. The state has asked a higher court to review that case—a request that is still pending.
“Ms. Devi’s home village, Dalan Chapara, has a population of about 1,250, nearly all members of Ms. Devi's Chamar caste, whose forebears were leather tanners, and of the accused’s Rajput caste of traditional landowners.
“A gravel road running through the village divides the castes. For the most part, the Rajput houses are built from concrete and the Dalit houses have thatched roofs. There is no marriage across caste lines.
“Villagers said Dalits aren’t allowed in the homes of higher-caste neighbors. At community events, there is segregated seating and separate sets of glasses and tableware are used. Rajput visitors to Dalit homes won’t eat or drink.
“‘Constitutionally, everyone has equal rights,’ says Bipin Chand, a Dalit primary-school teacher who lives in the village. ‘But socially there is no equality.’”
“Social Defence and Child Welfare Committee officials on Wednesday rescued two prospective child brides, including a 15-year-old Dalit girl, after stopping arrangements being made for their marriages in Sivaganga district. [...]
“At Singampunari near Tirupattur, a 16-year-old Class X dropout was about to be married to Manikandan, a 32-year-old hairdresser on Thursday.
“A 15-year-old Plus One student from T. Pudupatti was scheduled to marry her maternal uncle Sundarapandian (33), working as a bearer in a hotel in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, at Olugamangalam on Friday. [...]
“[The District Probation Officer, Department of Social Defence] said the 16-year-old girl’s stepmother had alleged that the girl was in love with a boy and she wanted to marry her off to a man of their community. [...]
“He said the 15-year-old Dalit girl had scored 450 out of 500 marks in Class X exams and taken up the first group in Plus One. Her father, who was working in Dubai, sent only Rs.6,000 once in three months to the family. Her mother, a construction worker, was finding it difficult to educate her.”
“A 45-year-old man from Uttar Pradesh has been arrested along with his friend in Kashimira, for allegedly raping and killing his 17-year-old daughter. The man told police that she had ‘shamed’ him by eloping with a boy from another community, and that he decided to kill her when he found out she was pregnant.”
“The prime accused Saleem, paternal uncle of Tahira, 15-year-old Muslim girl, who was brutally murdered and whose half burnt body was found buried from a grave in Khangesra village of Barwala block near the Tangri river in Panchkula district made shocking revelations during the police interrogation.
“Saleem, who had confessed that he used a pillow to smother her said that the victim was in love affair with her elder sister’s fiance. ‘Tahira tried to flee with him. The relationship was opposed by her family,’ he asserted, adding, ‘We tried to stop her several times. But couldn't stop her. Finally, I along with her elder brother killed her.’”
“At 5:30 p.m. on that Thursday, four young men were playing cards, as usual, when Mohammed Kasim Sheikh’s cellphone rang and he announced that it was time to go hunting. Prey had been spotted, he told a friend. When the host asked what they were going to hunt, he said, ‘A beautiful deer.’
“As two men rushed out, the host smirked, figuring they did not like losing at cards.
“Two hours later, a 22-year-old photojournalist limped out of a ruined building. She had been raped repeatedly by five men, asked by one to re-enact pornographic acts displayed on a cellphone. After she left, the men dispersed to their wives or mothers, if they had them; it was dinnertime. None of their previous victims had gone to the police. Why should this one?
“The trial in the Mumbai gang-rape case has opened to a drowsy and ill-attended courtroom, without the crush of reporters who documented every twist in a similar case in New Delhi in which a woman died after being gang-raped on a private bus. The accused, barefoot, sit on a bench at the back of the courtroom, observing the arguments with blank expressions, as if they were being conducted in Mandarin. All have pleaded not guilty. They are slight men with ordinary faces, nothing imposing, the kind one might see at any bus stop or tea stall.
“But the Mumbai case provides an unusual glimpse into a group of bored young men who had committed the same crime often enough to develop a routine. The police say the men had committed at least five rapes in the same spot. Their casual confidence reinforces the notion that rape has been a largely invisible crime here, where convictions are infrequent and victims silently go away. Not until their arrest, at a moment when sexual violence has grabbed headlines and risen to the top of the state’s agenda, did the seriousness of the crime sink in. [...]
“One problem is that perpetrators may not view their actions as a grave crime, but something closer to mischief. A survey of more than 10,000 men carried out in six Asian countries — India not among them — and published in The Lancet Global Health journal in September came up with startling data. It found that, when the word ‘rape’ was not used as part of a questionnaire, more than one in 10 men in the region admitted to forcing sex on a woman who was not their partner.
“Asked why, 73 percent said the reason was ‘entitlement.’ Fifty-nine percent said their motivation was ‘entertainment seeking,’ agreeing with the statements ‘I wanted to have fun’ ‘I was bored.’ Flavia Agnes, a Mumbai women’s rights lawyer who has been working on rape cases since the 1970s, said the findings rang true to her experience.
“‘It’s just frivolous; they just do it casually,’ she said. ‘There is so much abject poverty. They just want to have a little fun on the side. That’s it. See, they have nothing to lose.’”
“Sasikala, a Caste Hindu, had married Dalit Kottaisamy of Ponnaiyapuram secretly in a temple near Sathirakudi on October 11 against the wishes of her parents and escaped from the district. The duo had been in love for two years while studying in a Muthukulathur college. Afraid of Sasikala’s parents, the couple eloped to Dharapuram with the help of Kottaisamy’s friend Peramaiyan. Meanwhile, Karuppaiya, the girl’s father, filed a missing person complaint with Emaneswaram police. When Sasikala’s relatives learnt the duo was in Dharapuram, they went with former panchayat leader Narayanan and forcibly brought her to their village, said Kottaisamy’s kin. Then the police produced them in court and sent her with her parents.
“The police received a message on Saturday night that Sasikala died after allegedly consuming poison and her father Karuppaiya, mother Kanthaayi and relatives were secretly cremating her body in the graveyard. Raising suspicion over the death, some villagers told the police that her parents would have forced Sasikala to consume poison because she married a Dalit.”
“Dismembered body of a teenaged girl, who was missing for the past 20 days, was recovered from a well in Dewas district on Friday. The body hacked to pieces, was stuffed into two gunny bags. The bags were tied to stones to prevent them from floating on water. Police suspect it a case of honour killing.
“Five people, including father and a brother of the girl, were detained.
“The gory killing to salvage 'honour' came to light after the police detained three youths from Khajrana, who reportedly confessed to have taken supari of Rs 5 lakh from the girl's brother Irfan Adam, 25, to kill the girl as she was allegedly having an affair with a boy from other religion.”
“About 500 angry Vanniars blocked the Chennai – Tada road near Cholavaram, about 25 km north of Chennai, on Tuesday night with the body of a Vanniar on learning that his teenaged daughter eloped with a Dalit youth, police said.
“They said Ravi of Jagannathapuram, about a km from Sholavaram, killed himself around 8.30 in the night when he learnt that his 19-year-old daughter eloped with a Dalit youth belonging to nearby Athipattu after telling her family that she was going to her college in Chennai. [...]
“He said the agitators were demanding that the police produce the lovers before them. ‘We are talking to them. It is nighttime. We are telling them to give us some time to find the two,’ he said.
“Locals said Ravi’s brother’s daughter had eloped with a Dalit youth six months back. The couple was yet to be traced. ‘How can we keep quiet when one girl after another from our families vanishes like this?’ asked a middle-aged protester.”
“The old and new are continually rushing at each other in India, most starkly in places like Haryana, a largely rural, conservative state abutting New Delhi whose residents can commute 20 miles to work in nightclubs and office buildings. But their home villages are sleepy places, whose main streets are patrolled by glossy, lumbering black water buffalo.
“The villages are ruled by khap panchayats, unelected all-male councils that wield strong control over social life, including women’s behavior. That job becomes much harder once the women have left for the city. When one khap leader listed city shops that were allowing young women to store mobile phones and change into Western clothes, another suggested posting informers outside the shops with cameras to capture photographic evidence as women came and went.
“Om Prakash Dhankar, a khap leader who voiced his support for this approach, said measures like these would protect young women from much worse dangers that might follow if they freely cultivated friendships with men. [...]
“A generation ago, women here lived in complete seclusion from men, and could appear in public only wearing a lightweight cloth that completely covered their head and face. Though that tradition is fading, many women are still not allowed to leave the house without permission from a father or husband.
“Haryana’s khaps focus much of their energy on defending a single ancient prohibition: Men and women are not allowed to marry anyone from the same village. The local interpretation of ancient Hindu texts holds villagers to be brothers and sisters, rendering their unions incestuous. Young people defy the ban very rarely, but those who do are sometimes murdered by a gang of male relatives. As much as the khaps condemn these ‘honor killings,’ they are just as adamant about preventing these romances, a quest that involves tight control over women.
“Meena, who left her village several years ago to escape an arranged marriage, said young women there were terrified of the elders in the khap, who scrutinized their behavior and issued a steady stream of criticism. The criticism, in turn, terrified her parents, who feared being ostracized.
“‘They would say, “Why is your daughter going around in the village with her head naked?,”’ she said. ‘If you were walking with your head straight, the khap guys would say, “Look down at the ground, don’t make eye contact. Don’t have irrelevant conversations.”’ [...]
“The possibility of violence ran like a thin blade through [conversations on these matters]: Just last month, a young man and woman studying in Rohtak were killed in public by the woman’s relatives after they were discovered violating the ban on same-village romance. The man was beheaded.
“‘You know,’ said Puja, a 19-year-old student, ‘the first time the parents hear that the girl is roaming around, either they take her home and get her married or else they kill them.’”
“In a statement issued on Monday, superintendent of police Sibas Kabiraj said, ‘The victim's parents admitted that they poisoned their daughter and then strangulated her. With the help of close family friends, they tried to cremate her in the morning. Suspecting foul play, the villagers informed the police.’
“According to the police, the victim, who belonged to Gadaria caste (a backward class) was in love with Jaswinder Singh, a mazhabi Sikh (a scheduled caste), but her family was against the inter-caste relationship.
“The couple ran away to Ludhiana in Punjab on September 22, but Manjit’s parents forcibly took her back home the next day.
“On September 29, they killed Manjit for going against the family’s wishes by marrying out of her caste.”
“In a suspected case of 'honour killing', a Dalit man was murdered allegedly by his in-laws at Mehrama village of Bihar's Nawada district on Tuesday, police said.
“‘The victim identified as Naveen Kumar (25), was hanged with a rope and his stomach was pierced,’ SP Manavjeet Singh Dhillon said. Naveen had married a girl from another Dalit caste two years ago much to the disapproval of her family, the SP said.”
“A people who have never fought each other in history are today bitterly estranged, fearful and angry. ‘Not even during the Partition riots of 1947 did a drop of blood flow in our villages’, they repeatedly told us. And today, some 50 lie dead, and 50,000 have fled their homes in terror.
“Cramped into makeshift camps in madrasas and mosques, many resolve never to return to the land of their ancestors. The Muzaffarnagar countryside in western Uttar Pradesh is reeling under the gravest communal clash the country has witnessed since the 2002 Gujarat carnage.
“People of diverse faiths who live together do not spontaneously turn against each other. There are three requisites for mass communal violence to occur.
“The first is the deliberate manufacture of hatred. The second is the manufacture of a ‘riot’. The third is a complicit State: no riot can continue beyond a few hours unless the state actively wishes that it does so. [...]
“In Muzaffarnagar, in the patriarchal Jat community, the issue chosen to foment hatred was women’s ‘honour’. The claim was that ‘love jihad’ was being waged, by which Muslim boys were equipped with smart clothes, deodorants and sweet talk to entice Jat girls into ‘love’ traps.
“An unfortunate incident on August 27 in Kawal, in which three young men, one Muslim and two Jat were killed in violent clashes, was deployed as evidence of ‘love jihad’. The claim was that the Muslim youth was killed by the brothers of a Jat girl who he was stalking, and these brothers in turn were killed by a violent Muslim mob.
“BJP MLA Sangeet Som uploaded a video of two boys being killed by a mob in Sialkot, Pakistan, claiming that the footage was of the Jat boys being killed by a Muslim mob. This video was circulated widely through mobile phones, and fuelled mass rage against local Muslims. Later evidence suggests that the death of the three young men resulted instead from a hot-headed clash between the boys after a motorcycle accident.
“The second requirement for communal violence to occur is the manufacture of the riot itself. Building on the groundswell of local Hindu fury against their Muslim neighbours because of their alleged deliberate assaults on the ‘honour’ of Hindu girls, a mahapanchayat on September 7 was convened with the explosive theme ‘Save Your Daughters’.
“Fiery speeches were made against Muslims, and after the frenzied crowd dispersed, they attacked Muslim settlements. In the majority of villages, Muslims were labourers in the sugarcane fields of Jat landowners. Their small houses were set aflame and looted, some were killed, and terrified people fled to the safety of numbers in Muslim majority villages.
“The third prerequisite for a manufactured riot is a complicit State administration, which fails in prevention, control, rescue and relief. The administration took no steps to quell the rumours, arrest those stoking hatred, or prohibit the mahapanchayat. Once violence broke out, the police forces mostly stood watching as the crowds attacked Muslim settlements, without using force or firing to disperse the furious mobs.
“They did not rescue the escaping people; instead survivors depended on Muslim wealthy landowners to protect them as they fled. The administration did not establish relief camps; instead these were organised by the victimised community in Muslim majority villages. We found little presence of the State in these camps: it did not organise sanitation, healthcare, child care or police outposts to record people’s complaints.”
“The communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring areas is a warning of the days to come. Uttar Pradesh (UP) is crucial to the electoral fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) if its prime ministerial aspirant, Narendra Modi, has to have a plausible chance of coming to power. There has been a rise in incidents of communal violence since the Samajwadi Party (SP) government was elected to office last year, but the “riot” earlier this month – when close to 50 people were killed, a few hundred injured and tens of thousands fled from their homes – stands distinct in its scale and is clear evidence of what Paul Brass has termed the ‘institutionalised riot system’. The ‘Gujarat model’ of using the terror of communal violence to forge communal unity among ‘Hindus’ to build an invincible vote bank appears to be the strategy that has been employed [...].
“That the ‘Hindus’ in this riot are largely Jats has been acknowledged. However, Muslims too have caste and class markers. Some reports talk about Muslims being farm labourers, carpenters and blacksmiths to the landowning Jats. That clearly indicates a subservient relation with the dominant caste. In fact, one report quotes a Hindu Jat villager, ‘There will be no peace until the balance of power is sorted out. One community in each village will remain dominant.’ This then raises the question of why the dominant agricultural caste would want to drive out farm labour at the very time when agricultural operations are at their peak and the harvest is only weeks away. Another newspaper reports that Muslims who have run away from their villages to relief camps claim that they have left behind acres of cultivated land with standing crops, but fearing for their lives they would not want to return. The report estimates that in total there would be thousands of acres of such land and most landholders fear that these will now be encroached by members of the dominant caste. Does this indicate that landless lower-caste Muslims are now becoming landed? Or does it mean that a section of the dominant Hindu agricultural caste is willing to forgo the services of its (Muslim) farm labourers, even when labour supply is a problem, only to be able to appropriate prime agricultural land of the landed Muslims?
“The shifting of communal violence to rural areas perhaps cannot be understood without understanding the major changes in agriculture over the last few decades [...]. But it is equally clear that after the Nellie and Bhagalpur killings of the 1980s, this is perhaps the first large-scale rural communal violence and a warning about the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s new strategy of breaking out of its urban enclaves.
“This particular incident also built on the other trajectory of reactionary politics in the region – of trying to control the sexuality of women – which has expressed itself regularly in ‘honour’ killings and khap panchayat embargoes on lifestyle. That the present killings, which appear to have a land-labour angle, were planned at a mahapanchayat of Hindu Jat khaps calling for the protection of the ‘honour’ of their women illustrates the continuities between caste, class, patriarchy and property.”
“A Dalit woman in a Patna village was stripped and paraded in the streets by dominant caste men to avenge an affront to their pride.
“They were six. She was all alone. They held her arms, her legs and dragged her out of her house in broad daylight. An entire village watched as six men tore off Sarita Devi’s (named changed) clothes, paraded her in the streets, in a shocking spectacle of humiliation very near to Bihar’s capital city.
“Like scores of Dalit women, her body became the site of revenge for the dominant castes in her village, who sought to strip off her dignity to avenge an ostensible affront to their caste pride.
“Sarita Devi, a washer woman, belongs to the lower dhobi caste. The yadav caste dominates her village (named withheld) in Patna district, whereas there are only two dhobi homes. One of the yadav households accused her 15-year-old son of having an affair with a girl in their family. Later, there was a quarrel between the boy and the girl.
“This acted as a trigger and on February 16, at 7 a.m., the girl’s family and relatives, namely Naval Rai, Atma Rai, Parmatma Rai, Manoj Rai and Sanjay Rai, descended upon Sarita’s hut.
“‘I was brushing my teeth in the courtyard, when they came and held me. They were saying “Dhobi jaat ka hoke itna hai” [You have so much nerve despite being a dhobi.] Then they stripped me. They were taking me to their house to further humiliate me. They asked for my husband and son and threatened to kill me. Manoj was carrying a sword and the rest lathis. Everyone watched as they ripped off my sari and blouse and scratched my body,’ recalled Sarita with tears welling up in her eyes.”
“Akshay Kumar Singh and three other men were convicted this month of a crime that focused the world’s attention on violence against women in India: the gang rape and killing of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a bus in December.
“For the parents of the woman who died, the sentencing brought a measure of closure. For [his wife] Ms. Devi, who is in her 20s, and her 2-year-old son, her husband’s crime and punishment have opened up a chapter of profound uncertainty.
“Ms. Devi expects to be cast out by her in-laws and face ostracism and destitution here in India's conservative hinterland—not because she is married to a convicted murderer, but because she is a woman without a ‘As a widow, my honor will be lost forever,’ she says.
“Her husband’s relatives say they can’t afford to feed her. Her parents say they are too poor to take her back. The customs of purdah practiced in the region make it almost impossible for her to work outside the home.
“‘I am not educated. Our traditions are such that I cannot even step out of the house,’ Ms. Devi said. ‘Who will earn money to feed me and my son?’
“In the village where Ms. Devi lives in eastern Bihar state with her husband’s family, women are kept veiled and largely secluded. They can’t leave home without a male relative. Ms. Devi must wait until dark simply to go into the field behind her house to defecate.
“‘A woman going out for work is not in our tradition,’ says Vinay Singh, Mr. Singh’s older brother. Ms. Devi’s mother-in-law, Malati Devi, is blunter. ‘In our family, women die at home. They never venture outside,’ she says.
“Such attitudes may seem out of character in a country that had its first female prime minister, Indira Gandhi, in the 1960s, and that today boasts high-profile women politicians and executives. But India's countryside, home to nearly 70% of its 1.2 billion people, can be a stifling place, where women live highly circumscribed lives and lack freedoms their urban, middle-class counterparts are starting to enjoy.”
“Nidhi Barak, 20, was lynched by her own family and they broke the limbs of Dharmendra Barak, 23, before beheading him and dumping the body in front of his house. The police have arrested Nidhi’s parents, brother and uncle and are on the lookout for others involved in the killing. [...]
“Nidhi and Dharmendra were studying in Rohtak, 10 km from their village, and were in a relationship for almost three years. When both went missing on Tuesday, Nidhi’s family got in touch with her and persuaded them to return home, with the promise that they would not be harmed. As they returned on Wednesday, Nidhi’s family took them to their house and killed them.
“The families, of the same ‘gotra,’ told the police that the couple eloped on Tuesday to get married in Delhi, 90 km away.
“The brutal killing is yet another reminder of the power ‘khap panchayats’ wield, issuing diktats against marriages within the same ‘gotra’ (clan) and in the same village or even ‘bhaichara’ (brotherhood). In Haryana, there have been numerous cases of couples having defied the Khap diktat and paid the price with their lives.”
“Dharmender and Nidhi of Garnawathi village in Rohtak district of Haryana were in the prime of their youth. On September 17, they decided to elope and get married in a court. They left the village clandestinely to an unknown destination in Delhi. They knew the village community would not accept their communion as they shared the same gotra. But they were lured back to the village by a close friend of Dharmender, who is learnt to have been under pressure from the community.
“The couple was running out of money and the friend convinced them that their families were reconciled to their marriage idea. They were murdered on their return to the village. The girl’s parents, uncle and younger brother allegedly tortured and hacked the two of them into pieces. They decapitated the boy and threw his head and torso in front of his modest dwelling and challenged his family to come and claim the remains. None of the residents of the village dared to apprehend the perpetrators of the crime.
“The twin murders came to light when somebody tipped off the police as Nidhi’s body was being prepared for cremation. Some reports said that the bodies were dragged through the village to a send a message across to society, but this could not be confirmed. [...]
“Barring the Left parties and their mass organisations, all the other political parties in the State declined to come out openly and condemn the heinous crime. Billoo, the girl’s father and a former wrestler, proudly claimed before the media that he had done the right thing. [...]
“The people in the village were unanimous in their opinion that the couple had left the girl’s parents with no choice. ‘The girl’s father should have got her married instead of sending her to the city to study. The laws are made for society but our society doesn’t accept it. The age of marriage should be reduced from 18 to 14. This will solve a lot of problems.’ [...]
“[T]he concept of property is very strong in Haryana and the three Js—jar (property), joru (wife) and jameen (land)—are the cornerstones of patriarchy in Haryanvi society. To this extent, and to protect and preserve property, levirate marriages, where the widow is married off to the husband’s brother, are common. It has happened even in cases where the groom was much younger than his widowed sister-in-law.
“Another elderly man from the village said that townspeople found it difficult to understand village customs. ‘There is no concept of brotherhood in the cities. No one cares for the other,’ he said. He said when such transgressions took place, the influential people involved would resort to murder. Among the other forms of ‘punishment’ for those who violate the ‘norms’ are social boycott (hukka-paani band) and economic ‘sanction’, which prevents people from tilling or sowing the fields of the families concerned.”
“In an incident of honour killing on Friday, two brothers of a caste Hindu family were arrested at Seevalaperi here on charges of murdering their sister who fell in love with a Dalit boy.
“Police sources said Gomathi (17) had gone to work in a mill at Puthukottai area in Thoothukudi district and had fallen in love with Murugan (22) of Thiruvenkadanathapuram in Thoothukudi district, also a worker there. Gomathi’s caste Hindu family opposed their marriage as the boy was a Dalit. However, Gomathi went to Murugan’s house on Thursday, and decided to stay with the boy.
“As she did not return to her house, Gomathi’s brothers Murugan (24) and Sudalaimuthu (20) went to Murugan’s house and brought her back by promising that they would help her marry the boy she chose.
“Believing their words, the girl returned home. On Friday, the brothers reported that the girl had committed suicide. But investigation revealed that the brothers had poisoned and then hanged her. Seevalaperi police arrested the duo.”
“There's a pall of gloom and fear at the home of Murugan, a Dalit science graduate residing in the Pudukottai village in Tuticorin district. A 17-year-old girl from the upper caste Thevar community, who had eloped with him, was found murdered a few days ago in the neighbouring Tirunelveli district.
“The police suspects the family of the girl to be behind the murder and has arrested her two brothers.
“Murugan, however, hides in fear that he may be attacked next.
“At his home, however, no one is willing to speak out. The family exercises abundant restraint.
“‘They have done no harm to us. Why should we blame anyone for this and make it a big issue? My brother should not have fallen in love with an upper caste girl. He should have found a partner in our own Dalit community,’ Murugan's elder brother Ottaikaran says. [...]
“For years, the Dalits have largely depended on their Thevar landlords for their livelihood in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. And they became easy targets when their menfolk married Thevar women. The early nineties saw bloody communal clashes in the region.
“More recently, upper caste women have become victims of the dishonour killings, with at least six in the last two years alone.”
“With the country engulfed in a crisis over the war crimes trials, the worst disaster in the history of the garment industry shocked the country and the world. The Rana Plaza factory building collapse in April annihilated more than 1100 mainly women garment workers. This act of industrial murder showed the real workings of the capitalist market in one of the poorest countries in the world. Some 5000 factories in Bangladesh produce garments for major North American and European brands. The workers toiling in near-slavery in these deathtraps are paid the lowest wages in the world for that industry — as low as $37 (£24) a month, far below subsistence, often working 15-hour shifts.
“At the same time, the garment industry is a cornerstone of the country’s economy and the millions of workers in these factories have potential social power. To prevent such power from being unleashed, the local garment bosses, aided by the Awami League government, brutally suppress trade unions, to the point of targeting union activists with murderous violence (see Workers Vanguard no 1023, 3 May). Nevertheless, a number of strikes have swept the industry in recent years. And when news of the Rana Plaza disaster spread, hundreds of thousands of these workers walked out of work and marched on the headquarters of the garment manufacturers’ association demanding ‘we want execution of the garment factory owners!’
“The women who work in these factories are drawn from the villages, where illiteracy rates are high and the influence of religion and anti-woman prejudices are pervasive. For these women, a job in the garment industry opens up the possibility of escaping from the backwardness of village life. The ability of women to find employment in the cities breaks the taboo on mixing with men outside the home and enables women to become financially independent of their families. This fuels a backlash by the Islamists because it undermines the material basis for the traditional village and family hierarchy, within which women are blatantly traded as property. Dowry was prohibited by Bangladeshi law in 1980 but the legislation had little effect and the practice remains widespread. All aspects of personal and family law — regarding marriage, separation and divorce — are religion-based. Muslims are subjected to Islamic law, Christians to laws agreed by Christian churches and Hindus to Hindu codes. Numerous reports have documented an extremely high level of violence against women in Bangladesh. ‘Sulfuric acid — able to burn through skin, muscle and bone — is thrown on women for various reasons including “refusal of marriage offers, rejection of male advances, dowry disputes, domestic fights, property disputes, and even a delayed meal”’ (quoted in ‘Bangladesh: Violence against women’, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 2004). In 2002 the government introduced special laws to stop acid attacks; in 2011 the state restricted the sale of certain kinds of acids in an effort to reduce the number of these gruesome attacks.
“Women have most to gain from the overthrow of capitalism in Bangladesh and, as indeed in all of South Asia, they will be a motor force for socialist revolution. The fight for the most basic needs of women — for literacy, education, contraception, an end to forced marriage and a way out of grinding poverty and oppression — requires a struggle to root out the very foundations of capitalist society. In 1994, when Jamaat launched a murderous anti-woman campaign against Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin, we wrote that ‘Nasrin’s case raises questions far beyond the important democratic issues of women’s rights, freedom of speech and the separation of religion and the state’, questions ‘that only a revolutionary socialist program can answer’.”
“Twenty-four-year-old Shravanthi, who works in a private firm in Banjara Hills, wanted to marry a man she was in love with. Her parents, Raja Ram Shetty, 45, and Vasantha, 40, residents of Beerappaguda in Jeedimetla, wanted her to consider other proposals but she wanted to marry the man of her choice.
“Raja Ram is an Arya Vysya, a forward caste in Hinduism. The man Shravanthi wanted to marry belonged to Kapu caste, which is also a forward caste, but different. The Shettys refused to agree to the match. When Shravanthi refused to be browbeaten, her orthodox parents took the extreme step.
“On Saturday evening, they locked their house and went to their other house in Rajiv Gruhakalpa in Jagathgirigutta. That is where they hanged themselves. They were found by a visitor next morning who saw their vehicle parked outside and went in to meet them.
“‘We found a suicide note which mentioned they have taken the extreme step due to fears of facing society, in case she marries a man of another caste,’ said Mahender Reddy, SI Jeedimetla.”
“G. Suresh (31) belongs to the Vanniyar community and his wife S. Sudha (23) is a Dalit. Village elders belonging to the Vanniyar community have ordered a social boycott against them. [...]
“Trouble began around May-end when villagers at Veppamarathur collected Rs. 1,000 from every house to celebrate the Mariamman Temple festival. When they came to know that Suresh was married to a Dalit, they returned the money his family had contributed. [...]
“The village elders then convened a ‘panchayat’, which ordered that none from Suresh’s family should enter the temple. They were also barred them from drawing water from common facilities and other villagers were asked not to have any contact with the couple’s family. [...]
“In a shocking incident, a young girl was battered to death by her father as she had refused to marry a youth selected by him and insisted on marrying a Dalit youth of the same village. [...]
“According to the police, Konda Mamata (20), a second-year student of government degree college here, had allegedly been in love with a Dalit youth for the past three years and pressing her parents to allow her to marry him.
“But her request was turned down by the parents, particularly her father, Chandraiah, a tailor, and they fixed her marriage to a youth belonging their caste (Merudarji). A function, as part of the wedding preparation, was held at the house on Friday. It was attended by scores of their relatives. After all the guests had left the place, the girl again expressed her strong desire to marry the man of her choice which led to yet another bout of heated argument between the two. In a fit of rage, Chandraiah hit his daughter with an axe, which resulted in the girl’s death on the spot.”
“A 19-year-old girl has been burnt to death and her mother beaten after pleading with village elders to be allowed to marry a boy from the same village and same caste, Indian police have confirmed.
“Anju Yadav, 19, from Karahkol village, in Deoria district of Uttar Pradesh, was set on fire at her home while her mother, Gyanwati Devi, 48, was on the other side of the village pleading with the village council to allow Anju to marry her boyfriend of two-years, Ranjit Yadav, 21.
“But the village council, along with the boy’s father, Jai Hind Yadav, 52, rejected their pleas insisting it was against tradition.
“Instead, the boy’s father rushed over to the family home and set the girl alight, it was claimed.
“Indian society is well known for its complex caste system [...]. However, what is less well known is that it is equally unacceptable for people from the same caste and village to marry. [...]
“Her mother, Gyanwati, said both her daughter and Ranjit loved each other very much and wanted to marry.
“Gyanwati went to Jai Hind’s house on Wednesday evening to discuss the marriage proposal but when he and the family refused she went to village council for help, which is usual in India.
“Gyanwati said: ‘I wanted to see my daughter happy. They loved each other; I had no problem with the marriage. But when I went to Jai Hind with the proposal he told me it’s a sin to marry within the same caste and would not accept the marriage.’
“Anju, who was enveloped in flames, ran to the terrace of her house and jumped down. She suffered fractures in her arms and legs, too. The villagers poured water on her, but by then she had already suffered over 85 per cent burns.”
“A Dalit youth who fell in love and married a caste Hindu girl was found murdered on a field here on Thursday. Police have arrested the girl’s father and brother in this connection. [...]
“In April this year, the girl eloped with Parthiban, who married her with support of his friends. When the marriage came to the knowledge of Ochammal’s family, they refused to admit the couple in their house. Besides, whenever the girl’s family members came across Parthiban, they used abusive words and threatened him. Sources said, a few days back, the girl’s father went to Parthiban’s shop and threatened him.”
“Dhaka, who belonged to pre-dominant Jat community, had married Shabnam Balmiki (22), a Dalit woman, last year in a temple at Hisar.
“However, the family members of Shabnam, who reside in Fatehabad, did not approve of the marriage and also did not allow her to go with her husband.
“On May 30, when Satpal Dhaka went to meet his wife, to invite her for his brother’s marriage, the irate relatives tried to thrash him, but he managed to escape. [...]
“Last evening when Satpal was out for distributing invitation cards of the marriage of his brother Suraj Bhan, the girl’s father Mukesh and her brothers Shubham and Sagar, along with three others, allegedly attacked Satpal, killing him on the spot, police said.”
“A couple who had married against the wishes of the girl's parents were thrashed by the girl's brother and an uncle on Wednesday, and have been admitted to the local civil hospital. Jasleen Kaur, a Jat and Pankaj Agnihotri, a Brahmin by caste, had been forced to marry in court in August 2012,as the former’s parents did not approve of their relationship due to their different castes. They said they had since been running from one place to another as Jasleen's maternal uncle had threatened to kill them.
“‘On Facebook, he had posted messages threatening to kill my brother and and also insulted my sister,’ said Pankaj.
“He claimed that they had returned to their native village Motian on May 6 as his father was ill. However, on May 8, his in-laws thrashed them up severely.
“‘A mob, including my younger brother, uncle, grandmother, aunt and others arrived at our doorstep. Without a word, my brother and uncle started beating me and my husband,’ said Jasleen.
“‘They were carrying baseball bats, rods and an iron chain. They dragged us out and tore my husband’s clothes. They threatened to drag him naked by tying him to their jeep. However, the villagers intervened and they left the place,’ alleged Jasleen, exhitibiing the bruises on her body. She said her uncle had threatened them to leave the village or face certain death.”
“A Dalit family from Rudreshwor in the district has been expelled from the village after one of the male members married a woman from an ‘upper-caste’ Dalit family.
“Mandodari Damai and eight other family members fled to the district headquarters three weeks ago after they were chased away by other Dalit villagers belonging to Wada and Pal castes. The dispute erupted after Mandodari’s son Naresh married a woman of the Wada community more than two years ago.
“The villagers had earlier driven away Naresh and his wife from the village and of late, they were persecuting the entire family members. Mandodari said people from Wada and Pal communities started mistreating and forced her family to leave the village immediately. [...]
“Naresh’s wife Baragrathi said her relatives not only disowned her but also tried to attack her and husband’s family members because she married to a man from a ‘lower-caste family’.”
“Oppression and discrimination suffered by the low caste groups and Dalits at the hands of the dominant caste groups in Haryana and Rajasthan is reproduced within the families bringing in wives from other parts of India.
“The brides are ‘needed’ solely for their ability to perform free reproductive and productive labour. They are also preferred over local women as the loosening of natal family connections renders them vulnerable to domination and abuse.
“In the last decade and a half, the male marriage squeeze in the prosperous north Indian provinces such as Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and western Uttar Pradesh has led to men from these States paying money to marry women, usually from under-developed or economically marginalised regions of eastern India.
“Caste discrimination is further amplified by deep racism against women and their natal communities. They are all pejoratively called ‘Biharan,’ a term that implies poverty, desperation, filth and savagery. Their parents and natal communities are branded as ‘thieves,’ ‘sellers of daughters’ and ‘primitive savages.’ The repeated denigration is internalised by the brides, and this leads to lowering of their self-esteem and self-worth. As a survival strategy, they minimise their social contact with others, with a negative impact on their mental health.
“Most cross-region brides are victims of colourism (darker pigmentation of their skin). Dark skin leads to their rejection in the local marriage market, making them more likely to be offered for long-distance alliance, resulting in dislocation from their culture, community and family. Apart from casteist and racist slurs, these brides are considered, and often taunted as ugly and dull in intelligence, because of their dark skin, the study suggests.
“Shortage of women is not common across all caste groups, but is endemic among the dominant caste groups of Jats, Ahirs and Yadavs. While the well-off from these groups are able to marry locally, men who are underemployed, poor, those who have little land, suffer from some deformity, are less educated or are old are the ones who most often seek cross-region brides. This practice, however, is slowly spreading to some lower caste groups and Muslim communities
“Such marriages are non-customary as the women come from different ethnicity, region and, sometimes, even religion. Families of these brides are extremely poor, often in the Below Poverty Line category, with little or no land assets and seasonal low-paying agricultural work. Inability to meet the exorbitant dowry demands made by local grooms forces them into long-distance alliances. This is the main reason why they opt for ‘dowry-free, no wedding expenses’ offers made by Haryanvi or Rajasthani men. [...]
“Children of such unions face similar racial taunts from their peers and are not accepted as one of their own. The insults range from sidelining in games or bullying with name-calling. Such incidents are high in Rohtak district of Haryana and the Alwar region of Rajasthan. Some older male children have faced difficulty in finding local girls because of their mother’s ‘questionable’ caste identity.”
For Women’s Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!
Workers Vanguard No. 1017
“The heinous gang rape and mutilation of a 23-year-old paramedical student in Delhi on December 16, who later died of her injuries, sparked a momentous wave of protests against the oppression of women in India. Demonstrations erupted in many of India’s cities, including Kolkata (Calcutta), Mumbai, Bangalore, Panaji and beyond. Significantly, demonstrations were also held in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, where women face conditions similar to those in India.
“The epicenter of the protests was Delhi, which prides itself on being part of the ‘new’ India, where shopping malls and night clubs exist side by side with massive slums. In fact, the capital has the highest recorded incidence of rape of any major city in India. Demonstrations by students and other youth continued for days, courageously defying repression by the police who attacked with water cannons, tear gas and lathi (bamboo sticks).
“Anger among women intensified with an outburst of grotesque anti-woman chauvinism that sought to blame the victim for the crime. M.L. Sharma, a lawyer for one of the five accused, stated that ‘respectable’ women do not get raped, while the Indian president’s son, Abhijeet Mukherjee, baited the demonstrators for being ‘painted’ and ‘dented,’ i.e., ‘Westernized’ and not young. A leader of the fascistic Hindu-chauvinist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) declared that sexual crimes ‘hardly take place in Bharat but occur frequently in India’ (Wall Street Journal, 8 January). The RSS is connected to the Hindu-supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which openly espouses Hindutva (‘Hinduness’), a toxic mix of nationalism and religious obscurantism, to stoke violent pogroms, particularly against Muslims.
“The term ‘Bharat,’ the Hindi word for India, harks back to an imagined past of idyllic rural life—as opposed to urban India, which is supposedly blighted by decadent Western influence, especially on women. The reality of life for most people in Indian villages is extreme poverty and brutal caste oppression. In the countryside, rape of dalit (so-called ‘untouchable’) women is considered a matter of caste privilege by ‘upper’ caste men, who use rape as a weapon in the subjugation and humiliation of the woman and of her entire caste. A March 2006 study of violence against dalit women by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights reported that out of 500 women studied, 116 had been raped or gang-raped; among the perpetrators, ‘dominant caste landlords emerged as the most prominent group.’
“Police often assist vigilante groups which conduct raids on entire dalit villages, burning homes and raping women. The scope of such violence is captured in a November 2012 incident in Tamil Nadu, where 148 dalit houses were torched by a 2,500-strong mob because of a non-dalit woman who had married a dalit man in secret. Police also rape and murder with impunity as part of the military offensive in areas such as Chhattisgarh in eastern India, where it is directed against a Maoist insurgency based on the adivasi (tribal) people. In Kashmir, the occupying Indian Army uses murderous violence, including rape, to subjugate the Muslim population, with the perpetrators exempted from prosecution by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. In 1991 in Kunan Poshpora, units of the Indian Army gang-raped nearly 100 Kashmiri women, aged 13 to 80, in a single night.”
“Less than one month after the death of a young Delhi gang-rape victim sparked a massive series of protests across India demanding a change in the country’s attitudes toward its women, a group of council elders have defended another type of violence against females–the ancient practice of ‘honor killings’ in the country. [...]
“On Monday, in documents presented before the Indian Supreme Court, the Sarv Khap Panchayat, which comprises 67 ‘khaps’ (or unelected caste-based councils) from the Rohtak district of Haryana, a state in northern India, explained the reasons behind honor killings and absolved themselves of any responsibility in them. [...]
“The Times of India reported that in response the Panchayat declared before the court: ‘The main culprits [behind] honor killing are not the representatives of khaps but the near and dear ones of the couples and more so the relatives of the girls, when they cannot resist the social pressure of the locality and the taunts of relatives.’ [...]
“‘The killings are initiated by the family members of such couples–marrying inter-caste or within the same gotra [clan]–and especially by the relatives of girls. It is observed that such incidents happen only [among] the peace-loving and law-abiding people of the village and not [among] the mischievous families,’ the Panchayat said.
“‘Such ‘love marriages’ being socially, customarily and traditionally prohibited relationships against the age-old custom and tradition of marriages, their relatives and friends cannot withstand the hostile taunts of their companions and [the] public at large and this aspect forces them to commit such heinous crime of killing the couple on the pleas of saving the honor of their families in the eyes of the villagers.’ [...]
“The victims of most honor killings in India (as well as Pakistan and the Arab nations) tend to be women, who are viewed as the holder and symbol of a family’s ‘honor.’
“By choosing her own husband in defiance of her family’s wishes, a young woman in India is ‘seen as polluting not just herself but also her domestic group,’ Delhi-based sociologist Deepak Mehta said to the Wall Street Journal.”
“A man was attacked by his brother-in-law late on Friday following a dispute over his inter-caste marriage. An attempt-to-murder case was registered at Yerawada police station. Police said suspect Nitin Kadam’s sister married Alok Kamble of Ambedkar Nagar colony in Yerawada about two-and-a-half months ago. The Kadam family was not happy with the inter-caste marriage but Kamble went against their wishes and married Kadam's sister. This led to a dispute between Kamble and Kadam. Police said on Friday angry Kadam allegedly attacked Kamble at Ambedkar Nagar with a sharp weapon around 7 pm.”
“A 45-year-old man has been arrested for allegedly killing his 17-year-old daughter after spotting her with a young man near his house around midnight. The accused was opposed to his daughter's friendship with the young man, who belonged to a different caste.
“According to the police, Jhallar, a farmer, had gone to sleep along with other family members at his house. Around midnight, he woke up for some purpose and realised that one of his four daughters, Anju, was not in the house, the police said.
“Jhallar began looking for her and spotted her with the man at a tubewell, around near the house.
“‘The man escaped from the spot, while Jhallar caught hold of his daughter. He brought her to the house and beat her up badly. As the girl fell unconscious, he picked up a gandasa (a sharp agricultural implement) and slit her throat. The girl died on the spot,’ Station Officer (Kokhraj) Sri Prakash Yadav said.”
“In a tragic incident here, a boy and a girl hailing from two different intermediate castes in love committed suicide after their parents opposed the relationship.
“A Premkumar, 19, from Othaveedu near Alanganallur was in love with 16-year-old M Vijayalakshmi, from Kumaram, a neighbouring village. The boy was working in a company in Madurai after completing a diploma and the girl was a Class 11 student in a school near Madurai. They reportedly met on the bus they travelled on daily to Madurai and fell in love. Recently, the parents came to know of their relationship and chided them. It was also said that the girl's family was planning to stop her studies and marry her off to someone in the community. Scared that they will be separated, they committed suicide on Monday by hanging from a tamarind tree near a tank adjacent to their villages.”
“Police on Saturday said the suspected murder of a 25-year-old woman was a case of dishonour killing with her parents, fiercely opposed to her affair with a dalit boy, allegedly getting her eliminated.
“Manpreet’s father Kapur Singh, mother Balwinder and two others – Satnam and Jaswinderpal – had been arrested and Rs 1.50 lakh, a sharp-edged weapon and a car used in the crime seized, he said.
“‘The girl’s mobile phone and her burnt clothes were also seized from the arrested persons,’ Gill said.”
“It was an intercaste marrige the victim, Indu, had married her friend Ajay Rohil against her parents wishes. Unhappy with the inter-caste marriage, girl’s parents killed her daughter after 16 days of Indu’s marriage.Indu was a student of engineering.
“Indu’s parents had convinced her in-laws to let her go home with them after the wedding. But they killed her and took the body to the cremation ground cladestinely and consigned it to flames so that the evidence can be destroyed.”
“A 50-year-old man, who was opposed to the love affair between a youth from a different caste and his relative, shot dead the youth’s aunt and father at Avathi village in Mallandur police limits Chikmagalur district on Wednesday night. The man was also killed by the youth and his relatives on the spot.”
“The family members of 19-year-old Suma B., who witnessed the murder of her husband by an armed gang of four on September 6, are alleging that the murder is an honour killing. But, the police differ saying it was the fallout of an eve-teasing row.
“After a month of married happiness, Ms. Suma’s dreams were shattered when her husband, Naveen Kumar (23) of Anekal, was hacked to death even as she watched helplessly.
“Suma is yet to come out of the shock. She stopped going to college fearing for her life as she is the sole eye-witness to the murder.
“Married on August 6 this year against her parents’ wishes to Naveen, who is from a Dalit family, Ms. Suma now says her husband was killed at the behest of someone who was against their marriage as she is a ‘caste’ Hindu.”
“Shobha, 25, who goes by one name, is a widow who supports her elderly mother and her two children on a salary of 5,000 rupees ($96) a month. The family lives in a tiny room in a Cox Town slum. Shobha owns exactly two pieces of furniture: chairs foraged from the very garbage dump she visits, stuffed with the garbage she’s handed most often – paper and plastic bags.
“Shobha is clearly poor. But her circumstances are made more acute by the fact that her profession is despised and deemed fit only for people of the so-called low castes. She’s a Dalit, as are most of the city’s pourakarmikas. And like her, they’re illiterate, unskilled and chose garbage collection because their parents were pourakarmikas too. Many feel they’re equated with and treated like the garbage they collect. ‘I tried to explain the new rules to one housewife,’ said Shobha. ‘She replied, “You’re no one to talk to me.” Then she flung a bottle at my head.’
“The impact of Shobha’s poverty on her physical wellbeing is clear. The impact on her job is clear too. She signs in for an eight-hour shift at 6:30 a.m. But long before that she joins a queue of people to draw water from a public tap. She could hardly have slept well the previous night — her room doesn’t have electricity, so to keep from stifling, she leaves the door open. Fear of intruders keeps her awake. During the monsoon, rain sweeps in.
“By the time she reaches work, Shobha is tired and often filled with hopelessness. But she’s responsible for manually cleaning approximately 1.5 kilometers (almost 1 mile) of road and collecting garbage from about 500 households.
“The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (B.B.M.P.), or municipal corporation responsible for the city’s civic governance, has only 2,000 pourakarmikas on its rolls. These ‘permanent’ workers, as they’re known, are protected by labor laws. But since the 1990s the B.B.M.P. has hired only temporary pourakarmikas through contractors, and so the majority of pourakarmikas like Shobha aren’t covered under labor laws. They’re paid irregularly, cannot comfortably afford basic amenities, and are even expected to acquire their work tools.
“Shobha goes through four brooms a month, at a personal expense of 160 rupees. To save money, she scoops up trash with pieces of metal, cardboard or Styrofoam, which, like the containers into which she haphazardly empties waste, are foraged from the dump. If she can’t find a container, she uses plastic bags.
“Even permanent pourakarmikas are only given thin gloves to wear, but Shobha must handle all sorts of waste — wet, dry, and hazardous — with her bare hands. On her feet she wears the sort of slippers most people would consider too flimsy to venture outside with. In these she tramps down roads and wades ankle deep into dumps wet with animal excrement.”
“Parents of a Class X student dragged their girl out of her lover’s house early on Monday morning and hacked her to death for continuing with the relationship they vehemently opposed. Neighbours rushed to rescue the girl but by the time she was freed from her parents, uncle and elder brother, it was too late. She died on the spot.
“Upset over his 20-year-old daughter’s affair with a boy of another caste, a retired army personnel allegedly killed her with the help of his elder brother by asphyxiating her with a pillow on the intervening night of September 11 and 12.
“Inquiry Officer Harpal Singh said the deceased, a resident of Jandiala, was allegedly in a relationship with Sukhdev Singh (21), a resident of Jaanian village, for the past one year. Kaur belonged to Mazhabi Sikh community and her friend was from a Jat Sikh family.”
“Tension mounted in Una town of Junagadh district on Thursday after a 27-year-old dalit youth was charred to death by a group of 12 people in Akolali, a village about 25 km from the coastal town.
“The attackers suspected that the youth, Lalji Sarvaiya, had eloped with a girl from their community. The girl had been missing since two days. They came to Lalji’s house at around 8am and started asking for his whereabouts. They also threatened his father Kala Sarvaiya to hand over his son or face dire consequences.
“After heated arguments, some people barged into his house while others climbed onto the roof and started breaking it. ‘Seeing him sleeping, the attackers closed the main door of the house and those on the roof poured some inflammable liquid on him and set him ablaze. They also tried to set the house on fire but escaped after the commotion,’ Dipanker Trivedi, SP, Junagadh, said.”
“Eighteen-year old Reshma was strangled by her father Salim in Hapur district on Thursday after she refused to desert her lover and marry someone else as wished by the family. After killing his daughter, an unrepentant Salim went to the local police station and told everything to the cops.
“According to reports, Reshma had an affair with Aqueel, who is already married and a father of four children. Reshma’s family did not approve of the relationship as Aqueel was not only married but also belonged to a different caste.”
“Lives of a young couple, who married out of their caste and ‘economic status’, were snuffed out by the girl’s family in a case of ‘honour killing’ in Gokak on Tuesday. The girl’s family hacked the couple to death in broad daylight, leaving the city in a shock. Twenty-year-old Nethra and 26-year-old Vittal Kuri married one-and-a-half-years ago, against the wishes of their parents and relatives. Nethra was from the rich family of Bagai brothers, while Vittal was from a poorer background. As they could not get their parents to agree to their relationship, they got married in a sub-registrar’s office and settled down at Loslur near Gokak, away from trouble. The couple, in the meanwhile, had a girl child, who is seven months old now.”
“A married woman Sanjana Raj (25) and her three-year-old daughter Gungun Kumari were murdered allegedly by her family members in Gulab Bagh locality under Barh police station in Patna district late on Friday night. [...]
“Sanjana had married one Dilip Kumar, a resident of Gulab Bagh, in 2008. Dilip owns a tailoring shop. It was an inter-caste marriage and it seems that the girl’s family members were not happy with the marriage. He said about four days ago, Sanjana’s family members reached Dilip’s house, saying they were not opposed to the marriage and wanted to do her vidai (send-off) properly. Dilip allowed his wife and daughter to go with their family members.
“On Friday night, Dilip made a call on Sanjana's cellphone and found it switched off. He said when Dilip reached his in-law’s house, the neighbours informed him that his wife and daughter had been murdered and their bodies had been thrown into river Ganga.”
“Dangariya village in eastern Rajasthan’s Karauli district is still separated from the nearest city by 80 kilometers of a long, deserted road. [...]
“Last month, an NGO put out an online petition on a shameful custom that forced married dalit women passing by the houses of upper caste families to take off their footwear and carry it in their hands. The campaign was accompanied by a video that actually showed a few of them removing their slippers as they crossed the dwellings of the sawarna community.
“‘If we walk by wearing our slippers, our husbands are taunted in the village meetings,’ said one of the women in the video that was first put up on the internet two years ago. [...]
“Now, villagers from both sides of the caste divide are afraid to discuss the matter with outsiders. Skirting the issue, they grow defensive, even hostile. Those from the Dalit community, who agree to speak, refuse to divulge their names. Initially, there is an outright refusal that the custom of removing footwear ever existed at all. But persistence yields problematic qualifiers. ‘We ask them to wear their slippers if they’re carrying them in their hands. This custom has been around since our grandparents’ time,’ says Kailash Sharma of the sawarna community in the village. [...]
“Dalits in the village almost seem to have internalized and accepted caste interactions as they take place. Saubhagyawati (name changed on request), a farm-worker, adds her own two matter-of-fact cents. ‘If someone of authority sits on a chair, won't we sit on the floor?’ she asks. Ram Shahe Meena feels there is merit in the argument that Dalit women observed the ritual of their own volition. ‘Would women go into a temple wearing slippers? Baat maryada ki hai (It’s about boundaries),’ explains Meena, beginning to get agitated. In other words, the problem is not just that of caste discrimination, but also of gender. [...]
“‘Dalits who depend on the ‘upper’ castes for their livelihood are usually afraid to speak up. In the last 20 years, we’ve heard of fewer instances of such discrimination, particularly in Bhilwada,’ says Bhanwar Meghwanshi, an activist working on caste issues in Rajasthan.”
“A Dalit youth, who had married an upper-caste girl against the wishes of her family, was stabbed, and his wife abducted by his in-laws in Motihari town in Bihar's east Champaran district nearly 10 days ago, is seeking justice from the hospital bed as he has been put under police detention.
“‘I was put in police detention and handcuffed in the hospital where I am under treatment after being stabbed 20 times by my in-laws, who also abducted my wife, in an old case filed by my father in law, which is baseless. It appears to me that police is more keen to torture me instead to recover my wife and arrest the named accused in my complaint,’ Krishna Prasad Ram, the 24-year-old victim said.
“Ram told rediff.com over telephone from his hospital bed that the police is behaving as if he is the real criminal, but the fact is that at the time of his court marriage a year ago, he and his wife Khushboo Singh were adults, and India's constitution allows an adult to marry or choose his life partner.
“‘Nine police personnel have been deputed for my security and surveillance round the clock, despite the fact that they handcuffed me during treatment at the Sadar Hospital,’ he said.
“Ram was 23 and Khushboo was 21 when they got married. ‘Even if we were forced to to elope after her family opposed, it was not a crime as both of us were adults and consenting adults,’ Ram said.”
“A couple were tied to a tree, stripped, tonsured and beaten up for hours on the orders of an Udaipur village caste panchayat ‘offended’ by the ‘illicit’ relationship as the woman, 20, is married.
“The couple, who come from Kolar village, 85km from here, are neighbours and have been seeing each other for two years, said the police. While the man, 25, is single, the woman has a two-year-old daughter.
“They eloped 10 days ago but the villagers along with the woman’s husband tracked them to the neighbouring Kalyanpur village. Sunday they were presented before the caste council. Stripping and public thrashing was the kangaroo court’s order.
“‘In front of hundreds of villagers, they were tied to a tree, stripped and beaten up,’ said a police officer. Villagers stoned a police team sent to the spot. It took police four hours to rescue the two, who are now under their protection.”
“Two brothers’ misplaced sense of honour drove them to stab their sister’s ‘lower caste’ husband to death at a park in northwest Delhi on Thursday morning, police said. [...]
“‘At around 9:30 am on Thursday morning, Jyoti’s brothers, Gaurav and Rahul, went to Ranvir’s house and took him to the neighbourhood park on the pretext of talking to him. They then stabbed him to death,’ said a senior police officer. [...]
“Ranvir and Jyoti, according to police, had got married on April 17 and, sensing a threat to their lives from their own family members, had approached a city court seeking security. After the court made both families resolve the matter, Jyoti’s family had consented to get the couple remarried in accordance with necessary rituals.
“‘However, persistent taunts from their neighbours drove Jyoti’s brothers over the edge,’ [...] said the officer.”
“Elango was murdered by a gang of men who opposed his falling in love with Selvalakshmi, 18, a dominant-caste girl in Erode.
“Selvalakshmi’s brother Saravanan, who wanted to save the ‘honour’ of the family, arranged his friends to ‘finish off’ Elango, a dalit. His friends brought Elango to Muneerpallam secretly and killed him.
“Now Saravanan’s gang has been put behind bars. Selvalakshmi is depressed and sees no hope for her future. [...]
“In another case in Ramanathapuram, a mother and grandmother of a bride were arrested for killing the girl who got married to a lower caste man.
“Three days ago, a dominant caste parent was alleged to have kidnapped her grandchild as the child was born to a dalit man. There is a misconception that honour killing occurs only in villages.
“In another incident, a caste Hindu girl of Chennai, Sadhura, who married a dalit, Daniel Selvakumar, working in a private bank, was poisoned by her family for ‘spoiling’ their family name.”
“In Nepal, there is a haunting old adage that the day a woman is married, all happiness falls away from her life. This was certainly the case for Sadhana [name changed for confidentiality purposes], a 40-year-old widow from the Newari caste who lives in Kathmandu, the capital. As a child she grew up in a family that was relatively well-off. They owned a gas stove and were planning on construction of a new modern cement house—a huge status symbol for a Nepalese family.
“Then one day, when she was only 18 years old, her family advised her that she would be married later that afternoon. Throughout the ceremony she cried in terror as her new husband, whom she had never met before, took her away from her natal family. After the ceremony was over, she could never return to her parent’s household, as she was now the property of her husband. After two years of forced hard labor and abuse at the hand of her mother-in-law, Sadhana had birthed no children. She and her husband were getting desperate. Without a male heir there would be no one to support the parents in their old age. More importantly, without a son Sadhana held no standing within her husband’s family. Then one wretched day, the unthinkable occurred. Her husband had been involved in a motorcycle accident on his way to work, and was instantly killed.
“Dazed by shock and immersed in grief, Sadhana was incredulous as she found herself expelled from her husband’s home on the very same day of his death. The family had not only taken all of her possessions, but even the clothing off her back. She was categorically denied any claim to his inheritance, with no consideration of the law. Within a matter of hours, Sadhana had become a homeless and destitute widow.
“In Nepali society, the inheritance rights of women depend on their marital or sexual status. Traditionally, a woman is only entitled to her husband’s property if she is legally married and sexually faithful to him. A failure on either of these terms, whether real or alleged, results in the loss of her claims to her husband’s estate. Legally, this should not be happening. Nepal has guaranteed equal inheritance rights for widows, but religious and societal norms have a more profound effect on the execution of these rights than the actual laws. [...]
“Sadhana, a widow without a male heir to confirm her place in her husbands family, and unwelcome in her own parent’s home, was forced into a life of street beggary for some years. Ultimately, she was taken into an extended family member’s home where she was treated as little more than a slave.”
“Despite the placing on Pakistan’s statute books of tougher laws against the practice of ‘swara’ or the ‘giving away’ of a woman to a rival party to settle a dispute, the tradition continues.
“The women’s rights advocacy organization Rahnuma, which guides victims, describes ‘swara’ as a practice “where a girl is given as an offering to `settle’ a conflict or dispute.” The practice is most common in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Province (KP) and the southern Punjab, where it is known as ‘vani’, but also takes place in other parts of the country.
“A ‘swara’ exchange can be used to settle murder, adultery (a crime under the law), kidnapping or another offence. [...]
“‘Yes, the laws have helped but “swara,” “vani” and similar practices still go on,’ [activist Samar] Minallah told IRIN. ‘Estimates based on newspaper reports indicate there are hundreds of cases each year. Of course, there are many others which do not get reported,’ she said.
“She also said that tougher laws and arrests made under them had ‘led to people disguising the handing over of a woman or girl. The deal is not announced within the community as a “swara” or “vani” marriage, though within the families concerned it is known that the woman has been given away as “swara” and is treated accordingly,’ Minallah said.
“While ‘swara’ brides are wed to the men they are given to, these men are usually far older than the ‘brides,’ who are often mere children.
“The girls are also usually treated extremely badly or ‘like slaves,” according to Minallah, in the home of their in-laws.
“Other ‘traditional’ practices also harm women. According to the autonomous Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRPC), there were 943 ‘honour killings’ in 2011. An ‘honour killing,’ according to HRCP, involves the murder of a woman who is deemed to have let down her family, or ‘dishonoured’ it in some way. This can involve an act such as alleged adultery, a marriage decided on by the woman herself or other trivial matters. Couples choosing to wed by choice frequently end up having to go on the run, as in a recent case reported in the media from Karachi in June this year.
“The kinds of threat women face was illustrated by a recent case from the remote Kohistan District of KP where four women were sentenced to death by a local ‘jirga’ (gathering of tribal elders) after being caught on video clapping as two men unrelated to them danced at a wedding.
“‘Custom’ or “tradition” also works against women in other ways.
“According to figures presented at a seminar in Karachi by the Family Planning Association of Pakistan, 30 percent of all marriages in the country are child marriages though the law bars the marriage of a girl under 16 or a boy under 18.”
“According to the police, Suman Kumar, a resident of Banswara's Anjana village had married Happy Kalal who comes from a different caste.
“‘Suman Kumar says that he and his family members are being harassed since the marriage took place. He says that members of a caste council in their village forced him to vacate the shop that he was running, rendering him completely jobless,’ said a police officer.
“He added that his mother and brothers are being forced to stay separated from him and his wife.
“‘Whenever my wife heads out of home, she is subjected to mockery and humiliation,’ said Suman Kumar in his statement to the police.”
“In a shocking case of ‘honour killing’ on the outskirts of the Capital, a young Municipal Corporation of Delhi school teacher was strangulated to death allegedly by her brother and mother in Kanjhawala here over her affair with a man belonging to a different caste.
“The accused, Birmati (50) and Mohit (22), stuffed the body of Deepti Chhikara (26) in an Alto car and dumped it in Uttrakhand helped by the victim’s uncle Amit, the police said.
“The sensational murder came to light more than a month after the incident, when Deepti’s paramour Lalit Vats, a diploma holder in computer science, wrote an e-mail to the senior police officers saying that he suspected something wrong had happened to the woman. [...]
“When subjected to sustained interrogation, Birmati and Mohit purportedly confessed to having strangulated Deepti on April 19 night when they caught him talking to Lalit over the phone. The mother-son duo first beat her up and Mohit later strangulated her to death. Birmati held Deepti by her legs, while Mohit strangulated her, the police said.”
“A dalit youth, who had married an upper caste girl in the face of strong opposition from her family four years back, was killed in Sector 8 of Kurukshetra. [...]
“Rohtas Kumar, a property dealer and resident of village Rojla (Karnal), had met Sonia first time when she was pursing a post-graduate course in Kurukshetra University in 2008, said Kumar's family members.
“They got married in the same year after a love affair despite the fact that her parents opposed the wedding, said Kumar's brother, Vajir Singh in a police complaint.
“‘But, even after marriage, the couple faced lot of opposition from her family members who pressurized her to seek divorce from him. Finally, she gave in, agreed to divorce her husband and returned to her parent’s house,’ he added.
“Singh told the police that they could not track his brother for five months as his mobile phone remained switched off.
“Finding that his house was locked for long, the house owner requested the police to break the lock, to find the body of Kumar, which had been reduced to a skeleton.”
“Parvati has been secretly dating the same man for over four years. This independent and educated female was terrified of the consequences if her parents discovered that she was in a relationship with a low-caste Hindu, because in Parvati’s high-caste Brahmin family it is forbidden for women to marry into lower caste families. Here Parvati lost my understanding. How could she allow what is essentially a form of racism concealed by religion to continue through her own choices?
“I didn't feel able to ask Parvati this question aloud, but I did ask why she didn't just marry her partner. ‘They might have him murdered’, she whispered to me one evening over a bottle of wine, shaking and tearful. ‘The extended family would laugh at us and disown us, and they’d never forgive me for dirtying their honour. I don’t know what they might do in response to that.’
“A rare anecdote, you might say; an unlikely story? But this is the story of [South] Asian women around the world. Whether they are living in India, Europe or the US, whether they are artists, lawyers or doctors, scratch the surface and the thick residue of an old inequality still remains. With their modern dresses these women wear a set of rusty, confining shackles.”
“When Shobha Choudhary, 23, expressed her wish to annul her marriage, which had been solemnized in May 1998 when she was barely 9 years, the caste panchayat threatened to expel her from the village and impose a penalty as high as Rs 9 lakh ($16,830). [...]
“Shobha, a well-educated girl of Rajwa village in Keru (nearly 25 km from Jodhpur) got inspired by Laxmi Sargara, who decided to call off her marriage, fixed in childhood, on Akha Teej, a day infamous for child marriages. [...]
“When asked the reason of annulment, Shobha said ‘The marriage was not my choice. The boy can hardly write his initials whereas I am a graduate, a computer literate working in an institute and am preparing for my B.Ed and RAS examinations.’
“She spent 2-3 days at her in-laws' house after her gauna [consummation ceremony], for which she was forced but she could not stay there and returned to her parents’ place citing the boy’s uncooperative and humiliating behaviour and his illiteracy as the reason. “Now, I am an adult and can take my life’s decisions and find a suitable match for myself,” Shobha said.
“When we tried to contact Shobha's husband, he remained inaccessible. Kriti said that, we also had a joint counselling session with him, but later on he disappeared and is intractable, perhaps on account of pressure from the village panchayat.”
“Madhavan, a Dalit, has literally escaped the noose and is grateful that he is still alive.
“On Tuesday morning, he was dangling from a sari, after he was forced to attempt suicide.
“But, there was no such luck for Chitra, a 29-year old caste Hindu, who was lynched by a village mob for her alleged relationship with Madhavan.
“The honour killing took place on Tuesday just after dawn in Vandal in Vedaranyam. Chitra and Madhavan were bullied and beaten up. Their crime was that their ‘relationship' was not only extra-marital, but also inter-caste.”
“A minor Dalit girl from Bannirsarige in Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka was forced to leave the village by her family and local people for falling in love with a boy from a different caste and, in their view, bringing ‘ignominy’ to the community.
“Suma (name changed), 17, and pregnant, was left to fend for herself after her father and other family members threatened to commit suicide if she did not leave the house.”
“In a bid to save family honour, a man strangled his daughter at Gedellanka village of Mummidivaram mandal in East Godavari on Monday night as she insisted on marrying her lover who belongs to another community.”
“In yet another case of suspected honour killing, the Tirunelveli district police on Friday arrested four persons on charges of murdering a Dalit youth who fell in love with a caste-Hindu girl.
“According to police sources, S. Elango (25) of Periyar Nagar in Erode was invited for a discussion by his girlfriend's maternal uncle and his former employer Saravanan. When he went to see him in a village near Munnirpallam on August 5, 2011, Saravanan and his associates took Elango to an isolated place and murdered him. The body was thrown into a pond.”
“The 19-year-old girl Tabassum Khatun had got involved with 21-year-old Imran Khan, who was living as a paying guest in the upper floor of their apartment and was romantically involved with Tabssum the past four months.
“The two had even sought the permission of the deceased’s parents to legalize their relationship in matrimony. However the parents would have none of it, as Khan was from a lower caste.
“On Sunday, night the father Mohammad Kitabuddin Abdul Gafur Shah was awoken with a sudden sound and caught the two in the middle of a clandestine meeting, when in a fit of rage he killed his daughter.”
See also three other cases of caste-related honor killings in the Indian press this week:
“In a shocking incident, a backward-class woman was murdered allegedly for hiding her caste and marrying an upper caste man in Chitrakoot district. The man and his father have been arrested.
“The man confessed that he had killed his wife. He told the police that he was in love with his wife, who introduced herself as Puja Mishra when they first met. The two got married. When he came to know that she belonged to a backward caste, the man got furious and murdered Puja.”
“Recruitment is targeted at young, mostly unmarried, women and girls, aged between 14 and 25. The majority of these workers have a Dalit (so-called scheduled castes) or other low-caste background and come from poor, often landless and indebted families that depend on irregular income earned as agricultural coolies in the dry south of Tamil Nadu. Orphans and children of single parents are also targeted. When free education ends at the 8th grade (at the age of fourteen) parents or relatives lack the means to enroll children in school. Agents that recruit for spinning mills or garment factories are aware of the situation and may approach poor families at this precise time. Brokers convince parents to send their daughters to the textile and garment factories with promises of a well-paid job, comfortable accommodation, three nutritious meals a day and opportunities for training and schooling. Clothes and household articles are also given to attract the parents. Sending the girls to work in the mills where they will receive daily meals is a relief for the household; the (small) income girls bring in is a much needed addition to the means of the family. The lump sum offered to the girls is a way to meet the social pressure to purchase jewels for their daughters’ marriage. [These recruitment and employment practices are often referred to as 'Sumangali scheme.’]
The Tamil word sumangali refers to a married woman who lives a happy and contented life with her husband with all good fortunes and material benefits. Workers under this scheme are recruited with the promise that they will receive a considerable amount of money after completion of three to five years of employment. This amount could be used to pay for a dowry. In this report, these workers are referred to as ‘scheme workers’. [Often, completing the contract period is a condition to receive the lump sum amount, which is not a bonus but made up of withheld wages.] If the lump sum is added to the monthly wages, the total amount earned in the contract period in most cases does not equal the amount a worker would have earned if she had received the minimum wage for an apprentice in the garment industry.
“[Labour migrants often live in strictly supervised factory-owned hostels where they have little opportunity for contact with their families, let alone with trade unions or labour advocates. Workers make long hours, including forced overtime, in some cases even up to 24 hours on end, for low wages, and under unhealthy conditions. Verbal and physical abuse is frequently reported.]”
“The principal of a technical school in the district of Pirojpur (southern Bangladesh) was arrested for possession of a copy of Lajja (Shame), the famous novel by writer Taslima Nasrin. The book has been banned in Bangladesh since 1993 because it is considered blasphemous against Islam the state religion. The teacher, Yunus Ali, faces up to three years in prison.
“The police took him out of the KC Technical and Business Management College after finding a copy of the book in the school library. Ali defended himself against accusations claiming to be the victim of a conspiracy. The inspector Abdul Malek said: ‘Lajja is a banned book. Nevertheless, the principal kept it in the library. He must answer for this crime.’
“In Lajja, Taslima Nasrin, 49, tells the life of a Hindu family persecuted by Muslims. The author had to flee the country in 1994 after receiving death threats from Islamic fundamentalists. Since then, she has lived between India and Europe, without being able to return to Bangladesh. Her family is Muslim, but today she proclaims herself to be atheist.
“Contacted by AsiaNews, Nasrin said: ‘The arrest of this teacher is a sign that Bangladesh is not in reality a democracy but a totalitarian regime. Since 1990, Islamic fundamentalists have silenced my freedom of expression and tried to kill me, forced me to flee my country and leave my family.’
“Now, she concluded, ‘someone is in danger because of my book, and risks his freedom. But Lajjais not a novel of blasphemy: it is just the defense of a persecuted religious [Hindu] minority, one that is constantly harassed by the Muslim majority. I wish the best for this man and for those who are every day deprived of their freedom of expression.’”
“Activists of a local Hindutva brigade attempted to barge into a leading star hotel in the city on Wednesday demanding to stop its plan to hold New Year party in ‘western style’. What provoked the Hindutva outfit was the announcement of the hotel that alcoholic beverages would be served free to women who accompany men to the New Year party. Police have arrested and removed 27 activists of the little-known Hindu Makkal Katchi (Tamizhagam).
“They told the management of the hotel not to engage in attempts to infuse Western values into Indian minds.
“‘The Le Meridian hotel has announced ballroom dance party on the occasion of New Year. By inviting couples to the party, the hotel is trying to popularise drinking culture among women. While the younger generation is already addicted to alcohol, the star hotel is now trying to spoil our culture and such parties are encouraging alcoholism among the youths,’ said Arjun Sampath, founder-president of Hindu Makkal Katchi (Tamizhagam).”