New Delhi, July 6 (Calcutta Tube) Sixty-five-year-old Suhkdev Singh Darswal, a Rajput, is a happy man. His four daughters have settled down with men of their choice, making their family as diverse as India is as a nation.
He wonders why people kill their children in the name of honour. Darswal says his family represents secular India as his daughters are married to a Bihari, a Muslim, a Baniya and a Punjabi.
‘I am blessed. All my four daughters are settled. They were mature enough to find suitable guys for themselves and I am very much happy with their choice,’ Darswal told IANS over phone from Jammu.
But not many in India have the privilege of having parents who are as liberal as Darswal. Nineteen cases of honour killings have come to light between April 9 and June 30 this year, largely reported from northern India.
Rampant honour killings in the name of caste in some parts of the country, particularly Haryana, Rajasthan and even the national capital, have shocked the public and attracted government attention.
Diktats by khap panchayats or caste councils to nullify ‘same gotra’ marriages – those in the same ancestral lineage – and killings of couples who defy them reek of the Talibanised ideology forced on young Indian men and women.
It happened in the Kuldeep-Monica case — the couple belonged to different castes and had married against the wishes of their parents. They were allegedly killed by Monica’s brother Ankit, cousin Mandeep and his friend Nakul, who believed the couple’s act had misguided others in the community, like Mandeep’s sisters Shobha and Khushbu, into eloping with men of their choices.
The trio also killed Shobha.
These cases have sparked outrage. Some say such taboos are outdated in a rapidly growing economic power of India where young couples are fast asserting their right to choose.
Monali Aggarwal, 23, a management student in Delhi, said: ‘We don’t care. It is a matter of making personal choices. Who we want to be friends with, who we want to date, who we want to spend our life with… these have nothing to do with caste, colour or creed.’
In times when caste-based identities are diminishing and one witnesses an increase in inter-caste marriages, many feel that only education can get rid of inter-caste marriages taboo.
‘Education can give one a brighter perspective of life. It teaches you to be humane and to get rid of the social discrimination,’ said Ishita Roy, who works with an NGO.
‘People who indulge in such crimes don’t have anything better to do. They have time to sit and ponder over something they believe maligns their reputation. This is an illusion though,’ she added.
Today’s educated youth are least interested in surnames, said Ashish Mohan, a student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
‘We don’t ask our friends what caste they belong to. We hardly care whether he or she is a Jat, a Gujjar, a Bengali or a Muslim. As long as you are a good human being and are helpful, nothing else matters,’ said Mohan.
‘Yes, our parents do have this tendency. They still ask questions like: What is his surname? Or what caste does he belong to? Or what does his father do? But we don’t ask such irrelevant questions to our friends,’ he added.
There are, of course, those like Ranbir Mann from Sonepat, Haryana, who are not in favour of same caste marriages, as they feel it could lead to adjustment problems.
‘I think it is utterly wrong to marry outside your caste. Forget about getting married in the same gotra. Young kids don’t understand the complexities that come along with these inter-caste weddings. They marry as they become blind in love, but when it comes to making adjustments ‘sab khatam ho jaata hai’ (everything is doomed),’ said Mann.
But experts say there is not much basis for these fears and couples who marry against the wishes of their caste-conscious parents can indeed live happily ever after.
Psychiatrist Sanjay Chugh said: ‘Definitely they do because it is about marrying a person and not a particular caste.’
‘Two people who are in love are mature enough to understand that love is beyond things like caste or religion. People who indulge in such inter-caste marriages do have to make certain adjustments, but that is part of any relationship,’ said Chugh.
(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)