Thursday, March 3, 2011

Kill Me Mother, but Let Him Live

“Kill me, but let him live..”

That’s how a dying Asha Saini pleaded to the dehumanized killers. But it was in vain; she and her lover Yogesh were brutally beaten and even electrocuted to agonizing deaths, to make sure they do not live. She has known her killers for since her birth. Asha saw them nearby from the very moment she first opened her eyes and looked around. The killers did not listen and kept beating lovers with thick sticks and rods. Like many other before her, she was killed by her own parents and uncle.

Their innocent young blood burst out and faithfully gushed, flowed like a fountains of fresh tomato ketchup, seen in colorful television commercials. As if the gruesome acts were conceived by one of those morbid creative heads and their able henchmen, out to make a high octane impact, catch eyeballs, fiercely motivated to sell plethora of oils, soaps, shampoos, silk, cars and undergarments.

Umesh, a friend of Yogesh , witness to the horrible crime, tried hard to get help. But his mobile was not working and no body else was ready to make him call police and others. These facts further reinforce the tactic collusion and support for the murders by the neighbors.

According to the boyfriend's older sister, Renu, Asha wanted to marry my brother, but her family forcibly fixed her marriage to somebody else. Her mother had come to our place and threatened dire consequences if Yogesh did not stop meeting her.

Sadly, perhaps Asha too believed that she was at fault, by disobeying the family and choosing a boy on her own.

That could be the reason of her dying pleadings to spare the boy.

Asha and Yogesh were one of five couples killed in one week in north India in June. They were in love and wanted to get married. But Asha's family did not approve of Yogesh, a mere taxi driver. For her parents he did not have the right kind of job. But more importantly for them, he was from a lower caste. It was a shame that their daughter was having an affair and that too with a low caste boy. For some parents, it’s deemed to be the matter of ultimate shame, dishonor, and sense gets accentuated by suffering gleeful taunts from others with in close society.

Despite their strong objections and threats, Asha, kept seeing Yogesh.

"We killed them because we were totally against their sordid relationship. What else you can do if someone comes to your house to meet your niece at midnight?"

Her unrepentant uncle, Om Prakash, with out any remorse told reporters in televised remarks outside a police station in Delhi after his arrest. He actively helped his brother and sister in law, to kill their way ward daughter.

The Meghla case is latest in a series of such attacks on women in the Tamilnadu, dispels the popular notion that 'honor killings' are merely confined north India. Now there are cases from even southern states, such as Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, witnessing similar gruesome incidents. Many of them are sparked off when educated single women walk out of their homes and choose their own partners, sometimes from another community or caste.

What influences turns loving parents in to such dehumanized killers, apart from the age old ones?

Why this distorted notion of honor is traveling and seeping across regional boundaries?

What could be the reason for spiraling, so called “Honor Killings”, which are in fact “Horror Killings?

Is media unknowingly or carelessly being guilty of marketing sordid concepts of family honor and its horrific ways of redemption?

Media coverage of horror killings does seem to influence in some way the angered and conflicted parents to take such extreme steps. The banal generalization and pathetic dramatization of sensitive issues do lead to reinforcement of wrong societal stereotypes and their unintended multiple negative influences.

Is there a link between one such killings, its dramatized reporting, terming it as honor killing, leading to next blood letting by girls parents?

The careless last moment competitive spicy packaging of these events and high powered selling of these sordid bloods letting as events of expected and eventual honor savings seems to play a crucial role in chain of murders by family members.

It is for experts to find out how much covert role is unwittingly played by 24x7 high power media by dramatizing the sense of so called concept of family honor and how it was saved or avenged by killings of unfortunate young lovers? The dramatized propagation of age old concept of honor by still to mature media, its profound loss and redemption by killing tells an unmistakable link.

It is not that these tormented parents suddenly got wind of their sibling’s love affairs and decided to hound or kill them? Their tribal sense of honor and its perceived dilutions by females of families has been claiming lives of girls since ages.

The explosion of media has played its role in various ways.

Many oldies and saviors of traditions get upset and bemoan the young boys and girls hands locked, thronging the markets, cinema halls, multiplex and parks. The blame is placed on media for pushing the shameful openness, daring female outfits and their greater mixing with boys than what was possible a decade ago. Explosion of higher education and jobs creations across country has created much more mixing and socializing between sexes than what was possible twenty years ago.

In north Indian there have been about 20 horror killings in 80 days. The weight of honor of a family traditionally resides in its daughters, and when the girl goes against their wishes, it is seen as the ultimate disrespect.

There’s a growing feeling, given the fast pace of change in modern India that parents are now in no position dictate who their children will marry. The village councils in Haryana, near Delhi, they have ruled that couples cannot marry within their gotra or lineage, or sometimes within their village or a group of villages and they have come up with death sentences parents have to implement”.

Sociologists opine that “the murderous intensity is in itself an indicator of a feeling of losing control in some rural parts of India. The mere word of an elder is no longer enough to deter a couple from taking certain actions”.

In some villages bordering New Delhi, families are ostracized if they cannot make their children obey local marital tradition. But the killings have emerged in big cities, like New Delhi, and are making headlines across the world.

It is not clear if there has been an increase in these types of killings or a rise in reporting of them. India's Supreme Court is pressing the northern states where these killings are more frequent to take action and to specify what they are doing to curb the problem.

The Government of India is busy discussing and formulating stricter punishment for those involved in "honor killings."

A group of ministers aided by experts are considering changes to criminal law that would make groups that order these killings liable for murder charges. The changes would attempt to rein in traditional village councils that have been brazenly holding summary trials and order punishment in cases of inter-caste marriages.

Sadly, the renowned sociologists, intellectuals and opinion makers are still seeing the cases as extreme examples of the clash of modern India versus the strict interpretation of ancient traditions. It is still not known if they are also aware of impact of powerful marketing of traditional concept of family honor, its loss and redemption by murders.

Asha and Yogesh were not the first couples nor would they be last, exterminated to save the so called sense of family honor.

In another case during May, of such killing, Ramesh Choudhury, brother of the local BSP MLA, was arrested for allegedly killing his daughter and her lover in Hamirpur district. He confessed that he strangulated his 20 year old daughter Priyanka and her lover Santosh Kumar, 30, with the help of two servants. Santosh used to give tuitions to Priyanka and the two had been in a relationship for quite some time.

Apart from other well known social factors the media influences involved in these killings must be properly investigated to formulate related reporting policies standards.

Agonies and lives of few more such unfortunate couples can be saved by responsible coverage. The all powerful media, busy judging others, must now have a deep look inwards to introspect. The greatly sensitive nose of media personnel is on look out on 24x7 to scoop worthy news. The harassed and worn out editors collude with their TRP seeking marketing honchos to paddle commerce. Their uneasy relationships swing wildly between conflicting to telescoping postures, personal egos and unavoidable personality clashes .

It’s amazing that there are hardly any systematic and organized efforts, funded by cash rich big boys to do some serious social audit, the time of which has come long back and still being overlooked. At the same time, Government’s apathy or lack of awareness about these issues is cause of worry.

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