TW: Mention of abuse and violence
We come across so many cases of families killing lovers who belong to different religions and castes in the name of honour, the concept of which is rooted in Brahmanical patriarchy, and Brahmanical notions of gender and casteism.
Recently, I worked on a research paper, “Analysing sex-gender debate in the context of the Miryalaguda Honour Killing Case“.
First, what we need to understand is what kind of society India is, where “love” and “choice” are extremely vulnerable to hate for their mere existence. Like, any society that functions on the various notions, norms, values, and laws of the ruling class, Indian society operates on the dominance of the upper caste people, where only the sex and gender of cishet “males” and “females” are recognised. That which we call heteronormativity is followed unquestioningly by some of us, and most other people are just expected to follow these Brahmanical guidelines.
When caste is the dominant factor, controlling lives from birth to death, sexual purity or blood purity – which is most associated with women – is the most vital aspect to be controlled in order to maintain casteism.
Dr. Ambedkar in his 1916 paper “Castes in India: Their mechanism, genesis and development” highlights that endogamy (where one marries within one’s own group) is central to maintaining casteism. So when people try to break from this pattern, they become open to and victims of their communities’ violence, and social ostracization from their own place and their caste. Everything from upbringing to love, to marriage and even occupation, is to be aligned to casteist norms. In present times, we see that even if a woman becomes independent, gaining a “complete and settled life”, she needs to get married within her own caste group. Lower-caste women are more vulnerable to violence not only from their communities but from men from upper castes as well. Rape and sexual violence are tools used to teach these women a “lesson” to reinforce who is in the superior position in this hierarchy. When two persons fall in love or get married, where one is from an upper caste and the other from a lower caste, upper caste men take this as an insult to their superiority.
This is what we saw in the Miryalaguda Honor Killing Case where, on 14 September 2018, a young Dalit man, Pranay Perumalla, was murdered using an axe in front of a hospital in Miryalaguda, Telangana where he was taking his five months pregnant, upper caste wife for one of her routine check-ups. Amrutha’s father and uncle were accused.
Everyone knows that this country has its own constitution where the Right to Choice (a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution) is available to people, and they can choose their partners without any interference from outside. People also know that if someone commits such a heinous crime, then they are subjected to punishment according to Indian laws. Still, such honour killings are practiced; one of the reasons is that state machinery doesn’t take strict actions on it as they are also part of and entrenched with the same dominant caste groups who want “pure blood” in their kin.