Honour killings test state’s commitment to constitutional morality that protects rights of the marginalised and minority

In a society deeply fearful of change, love becomes an agent of subversion. Across the country, from Haryana to Tamil Nadu, the challenge of young women and men who transgress social norms in their choice of life partners has been met with violence and assassinations mistakenly called “honour killings”. That dishonourable record got bloodier still last week in Telangana, when a 24-year-old young man was hacked to death in Miryalaguda town, as his pregnant wife looked on. In this case, it was toxic caste hatred that claimed this young Dalit life. The main accused in the murder of P Pranay Kumar is the father of his wife, a member of the so-called “upper” Vaishya caste, who was so violated by his daughter’s decision to marry a Dalit that he allegedly set killers upon him with a prize of Rs 1 crore. He is not the first “upper-caste” man to be so threatened by his daughter’s sexual choice, nor will he be the last. Three years ago, another young Dalit man, Shankar, in Udumalpet, Tamil Nadu had been hacked by assailants sent by his wife’s family.

For many Dalits, this is just one more instance of Hindu society’s resistance to the ideas of equality and human rights promised by the Constitution. The backlash against Dalits sporting moustaches or riding a horse or leading a bridal procession through common village areas signifies a deep, violent insecurity about the new rules of engagement and assertion that Dalits seek to put in place. It is no surprise that this anxiety is particularly acute when it comes to marriage. As the architect of the Constitution, B R Ambedkar, had argued, dismantling the endogamy central to the caste system is key to countering its insidious hierarchy.

But what of the state’s record? Unfortunately, from the police to the courts, where Dalit representation continues to be abysmal, all institutions have shown a tendency to be hijacked by caste and clan loyalty. Therefore, the test in this case — as in others — is of the legal and political establishment’s ability to uphold the “constitutional morality” that protects the interests of the marginalised and those in the minority. On the ground, that implies, as Amrutha, Pranay’s wife, has demanded, a need for a swift investigation that puts the powerful killers — her own father included — behind bars. While the annihilation of caste might be far away, the annihilation of young men and women — for simply choosing to live together — must have terrible, deterrent costs.

Source: The Indian Express, Sept 20, 2018