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By Nithin Sridhar
A scary tale from Bangalore
In what appears to be a case of honor killing, a person named Hanumantaraaya is alleged to have murdered his sister Kasturi and her lover Basavaraju in Bangalore according to a report published in Vijaya Karnataka (July 6 issue), a Kannada daily.
The victims were originally from Koppala district, and Kasturi was in love with Basavaraju. But their love was not acceptable to her family due to caste consideration. Her brother had forced Kasturi to marry another man against her wishes. Kasturi left her husband and ran away with Basavaraju and arrived in Bangalore, just days after the marriage.
It is alleged that Hanumantaraaya was very upset with this, and he searched for Kasturi and found her to be living in Bangalore. He visited their house and spent the day with his sister. At night, when Kasturi and Basvaraju were sleeping, he allegedly hacked them to death with a knife. Kasturi was 24 years old and Basavaraju was 28 years old.
This brutal double murder adds one more to the ever-growing list of honor killings that is happening in India. A typical honor killing issue starts with two young people loving each other, and it ends with the lovers ending up dead, killed by their own families for ‘defiling’ their family’s honor.
The question that society, of which these perpetrators are an inseparable part, must ask itself is: What honor is there in killing someone in the name of honor?
Honor killing is a global phenomenon
Honor killing refers to the killing of a person by the members of his/her own family, because of the notion that certain actions of the victim brought insult and dishonor upon the family.
Honor killings are a worldwide phenomenon. Though it is difficult to estimate the exact number of people killed annually, it has been suggested that globally 5000 people are killed for honor every year. The Indian figures are estimated at 1000 people annually.
Honor killings are rampant in the states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Western UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Some experts suggest that the number of deaths globally is as high as 20,000 per year.
Apart from India, the cases of honor killings have been reported in Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Italy, Israel, Holland, Sweden, USA, and many more countries. Therefore, this is clearly a global phenomenon.
What is honor?
Now, returning to the question: Is there honor in killing for honor? We must first look into the question: what is honor?
Traditionally, the notion of honor has been associated with zarr (wealth), zoroo (women), and zameen (land) in India. But does it mean women are commodities similar to land and wealth?
The answer is a definite no and therein lies the source as well as the solution to the problem. Pursuing land, wealth and women are considered as virtue because without them, a man cannot perform dharma (duties/righteousness). But, they can easily turn into a vice, if a man intends to misuse them.
The ultimate goal of life is considered as moksha (liberation), and this cannot be attained without attaining the wealth that constitutes artha, and without having a spouse, together with whom, one can pursue desires and duties that constitute kaama and dharma respectively.
Therefore, women are associated with honor of the family, not because they are commodities, but because without them, men are incomplete, without them the practice of dharma is impossible. When it is said, a wife is half portion of her husband, conversely it also means that husband is half portion of his wife. Hence, although their roles are different, men and women share an equal standing as far as a family is concerned.
There is no honor in honor killings
The next question is: whether killing is honorable?
Honor is related to virtuous and righteous actions. The scriptures have clearly defined what constitutes dharma or righteous actions and what constitutes adharma or unrighteous actions.
Ahimsa or non-injury is considered as the most important duty of whole mankind. When the Hindu scriptures, which are the basis of Indian life, clearly state that violence committed in self-interest is unrighteous, how can killing anyone, because of the notion that family honor has been ruined, be righteous? Further, such a notion of honor itself is based on wrong understanding.
Love or lust?
If it be pointed out, that few Hindu scriptures mention harsh punishments for adultery including death, it is easy to point out that love is not same as adultery.
It’s true that, adultery is considered adharma as it involves cheating and a wide variety of punishments have been mentioned depending the severity of the crime. But, nowhere do the scriptures mention that parents should kill their daughters, or brothers should kill their sisters by accusing them of adultery or of bringing dishonor to the family.
The authority of delivering punishments is only with the judicial systems and not with people. More importantly, in the present case of Kasturi, her forceful marriage itself is invalid as far as dharma is concerned. Marriage is called as kanyaadaanam because the bride is given as a charity. And charity is a very noble act.
But, anything forcefully given can never be considered as daanam (charity). Therefore, the marriage of the girl itself is invalid. So the question of adultery does not arise at all.
Also, love marriages are accepted as valid forms of marriage in Hindu scriptures which call them “gandharva vivaha.”
Therefore, any assertions that honor killing is committed because the victim had violated culture norms and family honor, has no basis.
Women, without whom no act of dharma is possible, are always honorable. And there is absolutely no honor in killing women. Honor killing is a dishonorable act. Period.
The city of Delhi has seen it all; from sultanate rule, to dynasties, and to colonial rule. From monarchy to democracy, Delhi has gone through its phases. But, in order to know and explore the nuances of Delhi, you must read these beautiful books.
1. City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi by William Dalrymple
This book was written while Dalrymple was still flirting with his love for the Medieval India. The author writes, "Moreover the city- so I soon discovered- possessed a bottomless seam of stories: tales receding far beyond history, deep into the cavernous chambers of myth and legend," and just like this, Dalrymple takes you in a tour to discover Discover Delhi.
2. Delhi by Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller by Raza Rumi
This book explores how the author explores his identity as a South Asian Muslim and how his city of Lahore is a mirror image of Delhi. Rumi, in this book, tries to co-relate the past with the present by comparing its festivals, streets, and markets.
3. Delirious Delhi: Inside India's Incredible Capital by DavePrager
This book is quite interesting. The story of this book revolves around the lives of Dave and Jenny who have recently moved to Delhi when their firm began to go down. The city of Delhi in this book is shown through their eyes as they try to make their way in the city that holds together a very large population.
4. The Heart has its Reasons by Krishna Sobti, Translated by Reema Anand, Meenakshi Swami
The original title of this book is "Dil - o - Danish". This book tells the reader about the streets of Old Delhi and almost transport the reader back in the past. This book is basically set in the 1920's, and tells the tale of a man's extramarital affair, his children out of wedlock, black magic, and Chandni Chowk's rich culture of sweets and the perils of being a widow. Interestingly, many have compared the author of this book to Jane Austen.
5. Delhi: A Novel by Khushwant Singh
Who would talk about Delhi and not remember Khushwant Singh? This amazing book is just like a narrative of the author's fulfilled love affair with the city and with a eunuch. The narrator in this book is an aging man who is trying to discover the city. This book is truly a masterpiece, where it takes the readers on the history of Delhi glimpsing at what makes the city what it is– simply beautiful.
There are some of the Indian cities which are older than time. Therefore, we must know which cities are they, and what has been their history!
1. Varanasi (1200 BC–)
Varanasi is one of the oldest cities of India, and has been a center of religious and cultural activity since the Bronze Age. In fact, this city might have been in existence from a very long time, since it finds mention in the Rig Veda. It is believed that the city of Varanasi was thriving for more than 1600 years before the fall of the Roman Empire in Europe. This city is one of the holiest places for Hindus and Jains, and even Lord Buddha gave his very first sermon here in 528 BC. In Hinduism, it is believed that dying in Varanasi brings salvation, which is the reason why the city is always brimming with pilgrims.
2. Ujjain (700/600 BC–)
Ujjain was once considered as one of the most prominent cities in the Middle India. In fact, the name of this city is repeatedly mentioned in the literature of that period, i.e. in the works of stalwarts like Kālidāsa. This city has seen the rise and fall of numerous empires, from the Mauryas to the Avantis, Nandas, and even the Guptas. This city, just like Varanasi, is also considered as one of the holiest cities in India, and hosts one of the officially recognized Kumbh melas, the Ujjain Simhastha Kumbh, in which people across the world take place.
3. Madurai (500 BC–)
Madurai been a major center of culture and trade for more than 2500 years. In fact, the name of this city has been mentioned in the writings of the great traveler, Megasthenes, and has been ruled by several empires from the Pandyas and the Cholas to the Karnata, and finally the British. Interestingly, ‘'Koodal,' was one of its ancient name which means 'a congregation of learned men'. There is no doubt that Madurai was an epicenter of scholars and religious teachers in the southern part of India.
4. Thanjavur (300 BC–)
Thanjavur was formerly known as Tanjore. This city is pretty famous for its Tanjore style of painting, which is a traditional style that is characterised by the use of gold foil, religious imagery, and simple compositions. This city is best known for being the home of the Great Living Chola Temples, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Till date, people across the world visit this place in order to experience its rich history and heritage.
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