Friday, April 2, 2010


Typically succumbing to hype and hyperbole, the media decreed that it was a “historic” verdict. I am talking about the death sentence given to five people in Haryana accused of brutally murdering a young girl and her husband for defying ‘tradition’ as decreed by caste chieftains. The man who organised the “khap” panchayat that delivered the death sentence on the couple has been sentenced for life. This is the first time that a court has given a death sentence to the accused in a crime like this. We all know that in large swathes of North India – particularly Haryana, Punjab and Western Uttar Pradesh, such extra judicial executions of “lovers” have been a common occurrence, oft en with the cops looking the other way. In these parts of India, falling in love with someone of your “gotra” is clearly suicidal. Now, after this ‘historic’ verdict, pundits are proclaiming that the death sentence will act as a deterrent for the bigoted who think respect for ‘tradition’ and caste is more important than life and liberty.

Will it? I still recall a similar kind of media hype a few years ago when a court had convicted a Haryana based doctor of conducting “illegal” tests to determine the sex of a foetus and aborting it, because it happened to be that of a girl. That too was labeled a historic verdict and pundits had proclaimed that it would act as a deterrent for prejudiced parents and greedy doctors who routinely aborted pregnancies when the foetus turned out to be that of a girl child. To the best of my knowledge, prejudiced parents and greedy doctors – despite the historic verdict – persist with this social evil. In some parts of North India – Haryana again – things are so bad that strapping young lads have to share a bride ‘imported’ from West Bengal or Jharkhand because their parents finished off ‘local’ brides even before they were born.

This is a serious issue for all of us to ponder. What I have realised is that prosperity and even education do not seem to have an impact on the ‘mindsets’ that breed such social evils. A research study done a couple of years ago provided the shocking statistics that the sex ratio was the worst in South and West Delhi – the most prosperous and posh areas of the Indian capital. And of course, we all know that Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh are prosperous. You would think that access to higher education could change at least the people who get educated; that it might persuade them to forsake and renounce social evils. You would be mistaken. I have personally come across many Marx spouting “intellectuals” from parts of Eastern India who have passed through the portals and gates of the venerable Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and taken dowry without batting an eyelid. If an "intellectual” from JNU who becomes a civil servant, happily takes – and oft en demands – dowry, what do you expect from the illiterate villagers of Haryana?

Sure, law and legislation do not immediately help because it takes generations to change mindsets... But – if implemented effectively – they do make a difference. Look at that so-called land of liberty – America. Despite Barack Obama, racial prejudice & discrimination is an ugly reality out there. Imagine what would be the state of affairs if a law “empowering” blacks (known as the 'Civil Acts Right of 1964') had not been passed in 1964? And think about the status of blacks in America today, despite the law…


No comments:

Post a Comment