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The government proposal for a legislation to deal with honour killings by khap panchayats may not put an end to this evil.
Activists say the Centre should come up with an answer to the menace without alienating communities but at the same time ensure that no one gets away with murder.
Honour killings have been reported in Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Families in collusion with village elders – members of the khap panchayat – kill boys or girls who go against the wishes of the family and marry outside the caste or in the same gotra.
Anju Singh, an activist and a relative of former Haryana chief minister Bansi Lal, said while dealing with honour killings, the society should refrain from alienating the community or village. When families kill their own sons and daughters it is more about losing control over the youths than honour. This needs to be stopped.
She said there are too many motives behind these killings but the government is not analysing what these issues are. Instead, it is trying to enforce by floating a law.
She cited the example of a same-gotra marriage. A Jat is forbidden from marrying members of a sub caste like Dahiya. For generations, they are though of as brothers and sisters. "While this aspect should be respected, the killings should be dealt with legally," she said.
Annie Raja, general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women, said the government decision to make a law is welcome, but its inability to enforce existing laws is becoming a joke.
"How is it possible that the chief minister and MPs of a state are supporting khap panchayats which are illegal entities of dominant castes in the village? Isn’t there no law to deal with these? These are compromised for a few votes or a few seats. In such a situation what can another law achieve?’’ she said."It has become a chronic symptom of UPA 2 to set up either a GoM or EGoM when they are unable to explain their own failures."
People’s Union for Civil Liberties activist Kavita Srivastava said any law that looks at honour killings will have to address the issue right from the point when the family opposes a marriage to the killing.
Khap panchayats and honour killings are about aggressive belief in the need to protect caste hierarchies. So khap panchayats exist as parallel entities to elected panchayats.
According to Mudassar Ahmed of the Dalit Action network, the khap killings are nothing but an exercise of untouchability between two castes. In many cases invocation of the Prevention of Atrocities against SC/ST can help. But the law is often not invoked and FIRs are not filed leading to emboldening people who act against the law.
Joint Action Council Kannur founder Purushottaman Mulloli said the way out is to abolish caste systems and to come up with a law to ban making of new laws.
Social evils cannot be rooted out by laws but by a reform movement and debate. Sati was not abolished by a law. There were several other forces at work. Criminalising everything achieves nothing, said Mulloli.