Whether it be Hadiya, who was more fortunate than poor Ankit who was brutally killed by his girlfriend’s family, the issue is not just about religion but more about the patriarchal and intolerant approach towards the rights of the girl child. Hadiya’s father tried her to lock her up at home, and make her declare her husband to be a terrorist without success. Ankit, did not have a chance and was killed by his girlfriend’s family, with the girl now terrified that she too will meet with a similar fate. And that her family who killed the man she loved will not hesitate to kill her.
For the purpose of political goals and media sensationalism, Hadiya is a ‘Hindu’ married to a ‘Muslim’, and her family did not want her to be with a “terrorist.” And Ankit had a ‘Muslim’ girlfriend, whose Muslim family killed him as they were opposed to the relationship. The young couple were determined to marry, so the parents of the Muslim girl went to the house of the Hindu boy, and when he refused to listen to their demand that he leave the girl, they killed him. These are not the first instances of the kind, nor will they be the last. Any number of young people have been terrorised by their families, by society, by political goons to prevent them from marrying each other. Why? Because the girl is the property of that family, and has no right to exercise her own choice. So she is either imprisoned in her own home, driven to suicide, beaten, or else if all fails then the man she has selected for herself is attacked and killed. To drive home the point that she is bringing dishonour on the family, and has no right to her own mind, no right to make a choice. This opposition is ingrained in the complete lack of respect for the woman. She does not have the right to exercise a choice. She can, like Hadiya, be dragged through the courts by her own parents. She can, like Ankit’s girlfriend, be terrorised by her parents through the brutal killing of the man she loved. By people she called her own. The fear has the girl now speaking of the threat to her own life, from her parents who have since been arrested of course, and perhaps even her extended family. So to prevent the reputation of the family from being besmirched just because the girl is taking her own decision, these people are prepared to kill. It is not just about Hindu-Muslim, Dalit-Brahmin—-as each such case is countered by several other cases where the girl wants to marry a boy from the same community or caste and yet is not allowed to—but all about gender equality. Like the woman who was made to kill herself on her husband’s funeral pyre until it was abolished by law; like the woman who had to throw herself into the well to escape the marauding army; like the woman who was abducted by one king when his armies attacked another—the woman today has her own deep tale of trauma and sorrow. The marauders are her own family, and society. She is killed before she is born by those who would have been her parents, if they had reconciled to having a girl baby. She might be educated if fortunate, but in schools far inferior to those her brothers are sent to. She will not be encouraged to work, but if allowed it will only be to hand over her entire income to her parents, and later if married to her husband. She will give birth to children—as many as her husband wants—but have barely a say in their education and lives outside the home. She will be taught her place from the day she is born, as one below the men in the house, as one born to look after the men in her life, as one to keep the izzat of the family, and to do as she is told. Be it in her own home, or the home into which she is married which is even today referred to by her parents as her “real” home. But in her history the girl child faces two threats that perhaps surpass all others. The first before she is born, when her parents abort her despite the laws declaring this to be illegal. And she cannot see the light of day, only because she is a girl. And hence does not really deserve to be born. And the second when she grows up and wants to marry a boy of her choice. Every nasty gene of the families so confronted by the girl kicks in, and the effort to stop her from this starts with emotional blackmail, turns into violence, moves into imprisonment where even college becomes out of bounds, and in cases like the above, turns into murder where otherwise sane families turn killers at the drop of a hat. It could be the girl herself to be so attacked, and as in the poor young photographers case, the boy who has had the capacity and the ability to make the girl happy. The trigger is the same: how dare she? And hence the need to extinguish all that had made her so dare.
These are not communal killings. These are gender killings. These are murders to subjugate women, ‘our property’, ‘our izzat.’ The only way to accept a girl child is to imbue her with the family’s izzat, the girl in place to keep the reputation of the family, to keep its nose intact which translated means: do as we say or else…. The ‘all else’ can assume any form depending on the specific family. It can be to murder the girl herself, or in many cases murder the boy as in the Nitish Katara case, just because he had fallen in love with the sister of the killer Vikas Yadav. Katara’s mother’s life turned into a struggle for justice, from 2002 till 2016 when finally the Supreme Court gave her son’s killers Vikas and Vishal Yadav, as well as Sukhdev Pehelwan, the third accused, 25 years’ imprisonment without remission. It is unfortunate that instead of addressing this, politicians prefer to use such crime for caste or communal mobilisation when actually it is all about the girl, her rights, her status, her empowerment that her family, society, the political system, the governments are all united in denying and blocking. Ankit was not killed because he was a Hindu. He was killed because his killer’s daughter wanted to marry him of her own free choice.