Fear has descended on Alinagar, a village in Muzaffarnagar district ( in the state of Uttar pradesh, northern India). Most of its adult residents have gone, they are hiding for fear of being arrested because of an incident in which two young lovers were tortured and killed by their relatives. Vikas ( 20) and Sona ( 18) belonged to different castes and were attacked with sharp-edged weapons, then hanged to death while hundreds of villagers were standing by and watching. These two murders happened in august 2001 but today nothing has changed in this district as well as in the whole state of Uttar Pradesh, in Bihar and Punjab ( northern India). This is still the way justice is delivered to youth who dare to fall in love with someone their family disapprove, someone who doesn’t belong to the same community. Every year, 10-20 young people die this way while others are left maimed. Moreover, about 10 commit suicide due to the family pressure to stop the relationship.
Questioned, the father of Sona has neither regret nor remorse. “She was my daughter and I killed her. What matters ?” Muzaffarnagar has become the hub of honour killings, murders which revolve around marriages or relationships between people belonging to different castes. Something unthinkable in this conservative region. Local residents, still steeped in their old traditions, feel that honour comes before anything else and love affairs before or out of marriage are a breach of that honour. Then, villagers will do anything to protect their honour : burn their children alive, push them in front of running trains, force them to drink urine, eat excreta, shoot them and decapitate them. Finally, however, this is death and this is not negotiable. According to a former teacher whose daughter has been killed by his brother : “Children who do not protect our honour should be killed.” Having a romance “is not love, it is lust”.
Villagers tell that police can’t interfere with the traditions. Indeed, justice is done by the “panchayat”, the village council, a local government which has no legal rights to punish people. Yet, it rules the lifes of the villagers, especially the women who are considered as second-class citizens. And those who are suspected of infidelity or are willing to marry outside their caste can be gangraped, stripped in public,… Because of this male chauvinist and patriarchal mindset, honour killings are seldom recorded to the police. Even if it is, there is a compromise between the girl’s and boy’s families. Only after this, the police give a final report.
The National Human Rights Commission acts against those encouraging honour killings, tries to force the Indian government to take action whenever such killings come to light. “But there is not a single incident in which proper action has been taken.” Yet, the government will have to wake up to protect the young who can’t control their hearts against those who can’t control their knives.