India is a land of diversity- both cultural and geographical. In this realm of diversity can be seen an uncomfortable man-made difference as well.
The difference is visible as a shoddy, half-broken makeshift house at one end of an urban setup to a well-made two or three-storeyed bungalow with a garden and a posh sedan sitting comfortably in the front porch.
The architectural diversity just scratches the surface of what is possibly the most dangerous bog one can dip their feet into. Enthralled by the grandeur of urban life, gullible individuals are pulled into the vortex of the most diabolical evil generated by our society- caste and class diversity.
Understanding the Class and Caste Diversity Paradigms in India
Castes are generally associated with the Hindu religion. They are the sub-divisions of the greater religious path and were originally formed to distribute certain professions among the communities that were familiar with each of them. This, however, soon snowballed into a daily parade that was supposed to flaunt the wealth and power of the upper class and subjugate the lower class. Thus, caste and class went synonymously.
The lower castes suffered extensively and were always taught to suppress their desires and expect less from their life. Equality was a distant dream for them.
India has transformed and modernised in its outlook. But not much has changed in terms of the attitude of its older generations and certain communities still devoid of education. But they are not the only ones indulging in caste-based atrocities, the well-educated, urban-dwelling elites also harbour such myopic ideas and strut with pride upon their easy access to privileges and opportunities by virtue of their birth in a certain family, in which they had absolutely no hand, whatsoever.
Thus, caste still remains a big thing in India and despite the exhortations of various reformers to urge people to mingle with one another and exchange ideas; castes still remain isolated from one another and carry-out the age-old practices of maintaining a distance from the lower castes.
Equality at the Behest of the Constitution
Among the members of the Constituent Assembly was the venerated “Dalit” leader Dr B. R. Ambedkar who also moonlighted as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee. Having learnt from his painful experiences, he added Article 15 with special emphasis in the Constitution. This Article prohibits Untouchability- a menace rampant in India; along with espousing equality and equal opportunities to all.
This was a needed remedy at that time because of the regressive mindset of the people. This Article, which is the topic of many discussions and creative endeavours of the day, has become the cornerstone of the country’s constitution and ideals. But it has still not seeped into the regular life of Indians.
We fail to understand the consequences of inequality on the lives of those shunned by us. We act like self-entitled brats even though what we have is not the result of any kind of efforts put in by us. Why do we penalise someone for being born a certain way or in a certain family? Education has failed to answer this question.
Caste and Honour Killing
Britannica defines Honour killing as “the murder of a woman or girl by male family members. The killers justify their actions by claiming that the victim has brought dishonour upon the family name or prestige.” But this has slowly increased to the killing of both the man and woman.
Picture this: A woman from a conservative family and multiple brothers along with a tyrannical father steps outside her home one day and finds her wings when she decides to study something that her heart wants. This is already coming out to be a far-fetched scenario; add to that a normal college where she meets a boy who understands her wishes and dreams and hopes to give her a life that will be conducive to the fulfilment of those.
She finds herself drawn to this boy and wishes to spend her life with him. But the fear looming in their hearts is that of her Father- the man who is venerated in her village. His entry in a room can silence the hustle and his temper can mean the end of employment for someone at his mercy.
A feudal in the real sense of the term, this man spares no one-man, woman and child- from justice which has not evolved from the Indian Constitution but finds its roots in the vestiges of the ancient law pronounced by the patriarchal forefathers of the village. The boy, on the other hand, has a lineage of tillers, who have always depended on the benevolence of feudal lords. They cannot even dare to question the laws of the land, leave alone break them.
They fear to even imagine the consequences of such anarchy. But the boy has committed this blunder. He has sowed the seed of his dream and the girl is his goal in life. She, however, decides to leave his love, support and company to return in the folds of her father’s regal autocracy only to find herself imprisoned in that house where she is viewed as nothing but a liability and means for a transaction with other feudal families.
She breaks free and runs back to the boy and finds him willing to go the distance even now. She tries at first to convince her family that this is the man who will keep her happy; that in fact, her choice, her happiness and her life matters on this earth. But the family is enraged. The father sees red and threatens the boy to live his girl alone and they are no match. He cannot afford to adulterate his bloodline and gives the girl a final warning to mend her ways and understand his dignity in the village.
The girl cries and wails but to no avail. She sits through the night crying and contemplating, all alone with not a soul to comfort her. She sees that this is what her life is going to be if she stays. She is a human and deserves happiness and if her family is not willing to give it to her, she can as easily snatch it from the meagre opportunities that life has thrown her way.
She decides to elope with the man who gives some thought to what she wants instead of going through life like a mechanical slave with a man who will probably treat her like a non-entity. She grabs at that small window of hope and freedom and makes a dash for the city with her partner.
Both of them decide to take cover in an obscure part of the city and vow to work hard and create a life that is in stark contrast to the narrow concerns of the village. They are happy in each other’s company and are devoted and respectful of each other, just like a couple should be. Yet, all is not well.
Danger lurks in the form of goons sent by her father, who finally sniff out the couple from the confines of their meagre dwelling and in a fit of humiliation-induced rage, the father slits the throat of his own daughter. The son-in-law gets no better treatment and finds himself battered and bruised from the volley of kicks and punches of the goons.
As if watching his love being murdered by her father was not enough, he suffers the beatings to watch the father loom over him and attack him with a machete, as well.
This marks the end of what could have been a progressive and happy life where both the partners have a say and create a life that fosters both their dreams. This could have been the young, modern, upcoming India. This could have been the India of our dreams. It was stifled and slashed in the very beginning.
This is honour killing- killing the wishes, hopes, dreams and desires of young India for the purity of caste and dignity, which ironically gets tarnished when they are labelled murderers by the Court of Law.
From Haryana to Andhra Pradesh and Hyderabad, 2018 was the year that witnessed a spate of honour killings from February to September. 2016 witnessed 77 killings and 2015 broke all records with a high of 251 killings.
India has no separate law to curb this barbarism, in part because going by the heritage of this country, no one could have imagined that parents can ever think of murdering their own offspring much less witness it.
The India that is allegorically portrayed as a mother shall weep tears of blood on seeing the condition of apathy within humans in the country. Even animals protect their babies and humans give birth to their own seed and take away their life for a simple thing as falling in love when love is one of the basic needs of any human being.
Another worrying truth is that women in the country have always been put on a pedestal. This seems like a happy occurrence, except it acts like a chain that constricts the movement of their self in entirety. They cannot think or decide anything for themselves.
We forget that they are human at the end of the day and are responsible for their own choices and have the freedom to make mistakes as well. This comes as an age-old stratagem for manipulating their behaviour which has to end now. Women have to be respected, but only as humans.
Their body and their choices are their own which means that they belong to no one. Children are their own people and do not belong to even their parents and India has to make peace with this fact in order to nip honour killings in the bud.