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How Honorable is Honor Killing?

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By Nithin Sridhar

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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.

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)