India’s top court cracks down on tradition of “honour killings”


20 Apr 2011 15:02

Source: Trustlaw // Nita Bhalla

honour killingsThe bodies of Sunita Devi (L), 21, and her partner Jasbir Singh, 22, lie on the ground after they were killed by villagers in an “honour killing” in Ballah village in the northern Indian state of Haryana. REUTERS/Stringer

    By Nita Bhalla

    NEW DELHI (TrustLaw) – India’s Supreme Court has called for an end to customary practices which promote “honour killings”, saying the brutal tradition of parents killing their children to protect their so-called reputation is “barbaric” and “shameful”.

    Khap Panchayats — community groups comprising elderly men which set the rules in Indian villages in regions such as Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan — are often seen as instigating such murders in these highly traditional regions. Yet these village councils have no legal sanction.

    Activists say cases of families lynching men and women,who engage in relationships with those of a different caste or religion, to salvage their perceived honour are widespread in India’s conservative northwestern belt.

    “We have in recent years heard of Khap Panchayats which often decree or encourage honour killings or other atrocities on men and women of different castes or religion, who wish to get married or have been married …” said a bench comprising of Justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra on Tuesday.

    “We are of the opinion that this is wholly illegal and has to be ruthlessly stamped out,” said the two judges who were hearing a case of caste discrimination.

    Any opposition to Khap Panchayats diktats are met with harsh punishment, including public beatings or ostracism. Political parties rarely speak out against these councils which form a major vote bloc for many of them.

    Despite India’s rapid modernisation and growing cosmopolitanism, which has been driven by accelerated economic growth, discrimination against low-caste communities known as Dalits and minority faiths such as Muslims persists in this predominately Hindu country.

    The intermingling of caste and religion remains a taboo — not only for largely rural illiterate populations, who have lived under a system of feudalism for centuries, but even for educated, well-off families in urban India.

    In May last year, India’s media highlighted the case of 22-year-old journalist Nirupama Pathak who allegedly was killed by her mother in their home in the eastern state of Jharkhand, after she was found to be pregnant by her lower caste boyfriend.

    India’s top court judges have now directed all administrative and police departments to ensure that couples in such relationships are not harassed or subjected to violence, adding that inter-caste marriages are in the national interest and would help dismantle India’s age-old caste system.

    “There is nothing honourable in such killings, and in fact they are nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal, feudal-minded persons who deserve punishment,” said the judgement. “Only in this way can we stamp out such acts of barbarism.”


Rape-accused BSP MLA suspended


Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on Sunday suspended a legislator of her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) accused of raping a minor girl. In an order, the chief minister said BSP legislator Pushottam Narain Dwivedi has been suspended from the party pending an inquiry by the Crime Investigation

Department. If found guilty, Dwivedi will be expelled from the party and sent to jail.


“No one, howsoever important, will be spared,” the chief minister said in a stern message.

On Saturday, the chief minister ordered a police inquiry into the allegations of gangrape and illegal confinement of a minor girl by Dwivedi and his supporters in the state’s Banda district.

The girl, belonging to the Dalit community, had accused Dwivedi and his henchmen of not only subjecting her to gangrape but also using his influence to implicate her in a theft case.

Dwivedi accused her of stealing his licenced revolver and Rs.5,000 from his house, for which she was currently lodged in jail in Banda, 180 km from Lucknow.

Mayawati got into action only after the issue was raised by both state Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi and Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav, who charged her with shielding criminals in her party.

Nepal: Combating Violence against Dalit Women of the Terai


Dr. Hari Bansh Jha

Many of the Dalit organizations in Nepal believe that the population of the Dalits in the country’s total population of 23,151,423 is 20 per cent. However, the census report 2001 shows that the population of the Dalits is only 14 per cent (3,241,199) of the country’s total population. A breakdown of the Dalit population reveals that the Dalits of the Terai origin like Dom, Dusadh, Halkhor, Chamar, Tatma, Khatwe, Musahar and Bantar is only 36 per cent (1,166,831) against 64 per cent population of the hill-based Dalits like Damai, Kami, Sarki and Gaine (2,074,367)Studies show that violence against women is rampant all over Nepal. As much as 95 per cent of the women in the country are victims of one or the other form of political, economic and domestic violence. Yet the problem of violence against Dalit women of the Terai is more serious in nature as compared to other communities.

Even after the restoration of multi-party democracy in Nepal in 1990, there has not been any remarkable change in the socio-economic status of the Terai Dalits. Worse among these people is the condition of the Dalit women, who are triply oppressed by the so-called high caste people, patriarchal social system and the Dalit males. Most of these women are tortured mentally, physically and sometimes even killed on one or the other ground.

The Dalit women of the Terai fail to safeguard their interests and make protest for their rights as they are weak. Because of the caste system, the Dalits are divided among themselves. Education among the Dalit women is only 6 per cent or so. In certain Dalit caste such as Musahar the literacy rate is as low as 4 per cent. Drop-out rates among the school-going children is higher among the Dalit girls. Representation of these women in administration and political bodies is almost nil.

As the Dalit women of the Terai are voiceless, their plight is often overlooked. The I/NGOs, government and civil society are least concerned about their problems. With this view in mind, the Centre for Economic and Technical Studies (CETS) in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) conducted seminar on “Combating Violence against Dalit Women of the Terai” on October 28, 2003 at Janakpur to create awareness in the society to combat violence against the Dalit women. The seminar was a continuation of the support extended by FES to CETS for the Dalit cause in Nepal.

With a view to suggesting measures for combating violence against Dalit women, the seminar intended to discuss the general situation of violence against Dalit women, review the nature of economic exploitation with these women, assess the discriminatory practices against them in educational institutions, find out the factors that restrict them from attending the schools, and analyze the social problems, including the dowry system and witchcraft which add to the suffering of the Dalit women.

To achieve the above objectives, the seminar was organized at the seminar hall of Chamber of Commerce and Industries at Janakpur on October 28, 2003. The distinguished participants and resource persons of the seminar represented various segments of the society, including the Dalit women and men, academic institutions, media, political parties, NGOs, etc.

Opening of the seminar was made by the welcome speech of Hari Bansh Jha, Executive Director, CETS. In his speech, Jha welcomed all the guests and participants and highlighted the objectives and programmes of the seminar.

Among the galaxy of participants in the seminar, four papers were presented, which included Basant Kumar Vishwokarma’s paper on Overlooking the Education of TeraiDalit Girls, Ram Chandra Sah’s paper on Violence against Dalit Women of the Terai in Social Sector, Prakash A. Raj’s paper on Violation of Political Rights of Dalit Women of the Terai, and Hari Bansh Jha’s paper on Economic Violence against the Dalit Women ofthe Terai.

During the floor discussion, a number of intelligent questions were raised. Apart from the Dalit women, intellectuals from various walks of life also took active part in discussion. Sumitra Devi Mahara and Ram Baran Paswan from the Dalit community discussed in detail the different forms of violence against the women of their community. Namo Narayan Jha, Bishnu Kunwar, Lalan Jha and Roshana Khadka made useful comments and suggestions on different ways and means to combat violence against Dalit women.

It was concluded in the seminar that the concerned agencies should take effective measures to provide employment opportunities to the Dalit women, apart from improving their traditional caste-based skills. For a fixed period of time, they should be given reservation in jobs, educational institutions and political bodies. Dalit women of the Terai should also be given due representation in various Dalit-based organizations and National Dalit Commission. A separate data-base should be prepared on the Dalit women of the Terai and they should be given due focus in Human Development Report or any report prepared nationally or internationally. Pressure groups should be formed to impress upon the government to execute the Dalit-related programs of the 9th and 10th Plan.

Experts of the Janakpur seminar also added that the education of the Dalit girls and women should be promoted through poverty-eradication schemes. Religious movement should be started to enhance Dalit’s role in the society. Legal machinery should be made effective to punish those who indulge discriminatory treatment with the Dalits in public places. All such people who torture the Dalit women on the ground of dowry, witchcraft or any such fake base, should be penalized. But more than all this, it is needed that certain seats should be reserved for the Dalits and Dalit women in the Parliamentary and local elections. There should be provision for certain reserved constituencies where only Dalits are eligible to become candidates, although all communities could vote for candidates for such constituencies.

(Dr. Jha is Nepal’s senior economist)

2008-04-30 07:04:24

Dalit girl paraded naked in Mumbai


Jul 10, 2010, 01.22am IST

MUMBAI: Cases of attacks on dalit women aren’t confined to rural India: last month, a young dalit girl was stripped and paraded in a southern Mumbai locality. The local police has arrested 10 women and two men and slapped them with cases of atrocities. However, Sharada Yadav, the main accused, is out on bail.

Said senior police inspector Rajan Bhogale: “All the suspects named by the victim, including Sharada Yadav, were arrested in the case. We charged them under the Prevention of Atrocities Act. But Sharda Yadav was granted bail by the court.” The 22-year-old dalit girl Mita Kamble (name changed), who was stripped and dragged out of her house at Darukhana, Reay Road, by a mob of mostly women, said: “They all shouted that dalits like me should not live in this area. They kept hurling abuses on me.”

What led to the incident was rape of a five-year-old child, allegedly by Mita’s brother, a watchman at the ship-breaking yard, on June 16. Vijay Kamble (34) was arrested by the Sewri police. “While stripping me, Sharada Yadav and another woman kept shouting that I would have to pay for my brother’s crime,” said Mita.

On the other hand, the five-year-old girl who was raped returned home on Friday after she underwent two surgeries in J J Hospital. Several organisations and social workers recently held a rally and demanded the police to hold some counselling sessions for the residents.

Dalit families desert houses fearing arrest


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Dalit families desert houses fearing arrest

Staff Reporter

Only four students turn up in village school

SIVAKASI: Over 30 Dalit families of Nedungulam near here have deserted their houses fearing a police backlash since Monday. Out of the 24 students at a local school, only four turned up on Wednesday.

Sivakasi Tahsildar T.R.D. Santhi visited the village to impress upon the village elders to send their children to Pachayat Union Elementary School.

“I came here following complaints that children were absenting themselves for classes since Monday. Only two had come on Monday and three on Tuesday,” she said.

The male members of the Dalit families had fled fearing arrest. “I told the villagers not keep the students away from school,” said Ms. Santhi.

A worker of People’s Watch, a Madurai-based human rights organisation, said the Dalits had caught a caste Hindu man from a nearby village when he entered the house of a Dalit woman on Sunday. “The villagers had opposed their illicit relationship.” However, Sivakasi Deputy Superintendent of Police Rajagopal said the man had been to the woman’s house only to ask her as to why she had not turned up for work in a fireworks unit.

Based on a complaint by his wife, the M. Pudupatti police had registered a case under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including for illegal confinement.

After a lot of resistance from local people, the police retrieved the “confined” man at around 11 p.m.

“One of our men was injured on the head after somebody pelted us with stones.

They escaped in the dark,” said Mr. Rajagopal.

Second case

A second case was filed against a few Dalit members for attacking police personnel, under various sections of the IPC, including for ‘attempt to murder.’

Local people said bus services on two routes that used to pass through Nedungulam had been suspended since Monday.

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