“Boy burnt at stake, girl beaten to death.” I probably have read this line a hundred times in the morning newspaper while sipping my cup of coffee. Coming from a middle class family in India, where people still boast about an unwavering and staunch faith in caste, creed, and religion, I smile, but the smile is one of shame and condescendence.
I was no less than stunned to see yet another news on the killing of a boy and girl planning to get married. If I would not have gone ahead to read further, I would have naturally thought that the reason was the difference in their castes. What actually left me speechless is that in this case, the boy and the girl belonged to the same sub-caste. The article on BBC read, “India 'Honour Killings': Paying the Price for Falling in Love.” The irony in the whole situation was that the very people who beat the girl to death were carrying out her last rites, burning her body on the funeral pyre. On being asked about how they were feeling, one of the girl’s relatives said, “Who wants to kill their own children? But whatever God wanted, happened!” Another said, “What was done to them was the right thing to do. We had to set an example." Somehow, we always end up bringing our god into the picture as an alibi. And we do not even feel ashamed for a minute to commit the heinous act of a murder in the name of God and religion. The only crime that the girl had committed was loving a boy and deciding to choose him as her life partner. The only wrong she had done was to take the initiative for her own life and choose what she felt was the best for her. We Indians set ourselves free in 1947 from the oppressive British regime. 67 long years of independence have done nothing more than bind us tighter in shackles of silence, fear, and sheer indifference.
Honour killings have been a serious issue from the long past, and one does not stop hearing about such brutal events even today, when we claim that we are so developed and our women are safe, secure, and progressive. And why do these honour killings occur? In most of the cases, it is because two people fall in love without caring about their caste and religion, or a woman refuses to accept an arranged marriage. Unfortunately, quite a few arranged marriages have led to the harassment of women by hiding her beneath the curtains of her house. Indian families are willing to “donate” lakhs of rupees as dowry, but will not allow their children to marry somebody they love, just because it would lead to a "dilution of their values", an impingement on their so called “societal dignity.”
Also, religion is no less a poison in the multiverse society in India. We have all that is required: a secular constitution, freedom of speech, and right against discrimination. Unfortunately, we lack the most crucial factor - the willingness to change our already dead or decaying thoughts. “My religion is superior to yours” - for all those that use this phrase to fuel their hollow vanity, let me urge them to stop and think for a moment: would their religion support their “enhancing the societal dignity” claim?
On August 27, a religious clash between the Hindu and Muslim communities of the Muzaffarnagar district claimed 43 lives and injured 93. Going back to the Ayodhya Dispute in 1992, which claimed about 2,000 lives, it seems to me that even after two decades, things have not changed much. We still live like crabs in a jar, busy pulling each other down. The very political leaders who ignite these riots by planting the seed of disbelief in the hearts of naïve citizens are respected as our so called “leaders” when they are supposed to light the lamps of progress in our dark world. Every five years, we have an election to choose our leaders, but the irony is that most of these “leaders” are masked goons, ready to do anything to grab power. Years and decades pass by, but our political system is like a seal on stone for us. We do not want to change it, and why? Because we are too cowardly and too caught up in our middle class lives to even care about how our country is going to the dogs.
Religion came up to initiate morality and faith in the hearts of people, but somehow I see its deeper meanings getting altered. Religion as a sociocultural factor has huge power, but if used adversely, it can act like a wedge that can break the nation apart. 2014 is the year of yet another set of national elections, and this is the peak time when every party will be using all means possible to wield power. History says it that caste and religion have long been used as their weapons. I wait to see that day when people of my country will rise above these mere differences and choose the right direction. That will be the knell of revolution, the torrent of change!