As a shocked nation continues to be transfixed by the story of how Indrani Mukerjea allegedly killed her daughter, the riveting filmlike account brings back memories of similar stories played out in Punjab not so long ago.
In these cases of murders most foul, where mothers, have been either convicted or charged with killing their daughters, investigations have revealed “honour” as the most common motive.
NRI GIRL SLAYED FOR MARRYING AUTO DRIVER
The Jassi Sidhu murder case shocked the state in 2000 when a 24-year-old wealthy NRI girl Jaswinder (Jassi) was killed near Ludhiana by men hired by her mother Malkit Kaur and uncle Surjit Singh Badesha in Canada. She was killed just because she had dared to fall in love with a kabbadi player-turned auto driver Sukhvinder (Mithu) Sidhu during one of her trips to India in 1994. In a subsequent trip in 1999, she secretly married Mithu. Working at a beauty parlour in Canada, Jassi led a tumultuous life after her “affair” and secret marriage came to light at home. Her mother would beat her up and stopped giving her food. She finally approached the police when her uncle made arrangements to marry her to a 60 year-old man. She came to India in May 2000 to be with Mithu.
In June 2000, Jassi and Mithu were attacked by a group of armed men. Mithu was mercilessly beaten and left to die while Jassi was forced into a car and driven away to a farmhouse where she was killed. Jassi’s body was later found in a canal. Her throat had been slit. Punjab Police found her mother and uncle involved in the murder.
In 2005, seven men were convicted in the case. Four were later acquitted. Jassi’s mother and uncle were arrested in Canada in 2012 and have been in jail since. In May last year, a Canadian court ordered the extradition of the two to India which is still awaited.
“Honour killings have increased over the past two decades. This is because now caste is not the only objection; class, too, has become a factor. An economically welloff family of a girl has problems marrying off their daughter into a poor family, as it’s seen as a depletion of honour.
Secondly, women have got economically independent but their families continue to be orthodox and tend to control them, especially when it comes to choosing a life partner,” says Satnam Singh Deol, assistant professor at the department of political science, GNDU, Amritsar.
“Women are still not allowed to take decisions regarding their life. That is where the conflict regarding honour emerges. Also, women, as part of their socialisation, from a very young age are filled with strict ideas of right and wrong towards men. Such women as mothers then tend to impose these on their daughters and any deviation from that behaviour is unacceptable,” says Deol.
POWER, POLITICS & ‘MURDER’ MOST FOUL
The same year when the Jassi murder case rocked Punjab, Bibi Jagir Kaur, state’s former cabinet minister and two times SGPC chief, faced charges of murdering her daughter- Harpreet. It was alleged that she was against her daughter’s relations with a small-time party worker, Kamaljit Singh.
Harpreet died under mysterious circumstances in May 2000 and was cremated in a tearing hurry at Begowal (Kapurthala). Following her death, a scandalous revelation by Kamaljit led to CBI investigation. Kamaljit approached the Punjab and Haryana high court with proof of his “wedding to Harpreet and the fact that she was pregnant.” He alleged that Harpreet was made to abort her child and a month later she was killed.
Jagir Kaur maintained that her daughter fell ill and died on the way to the hospital. Kaur and six others were tried for Harpreet’s murder. While two were acquitted, in November 2008, accused-turned approver Dr BS Sohal died in a road accident at Amritsar. Kaur’s close aides Dalwinder Dhesi, Paramjit Raipur and her private security officer, sub- inspector Nishan Singh were acquitted of murder but held guilty on other charges.
Kaur was convicted of forcing her daughter to abort her child and keeping her in illegal confinement. The court dropped murder charges against her saying there was no direct link between the abortion and Harpreet’s death a month later. Kaur was arrested within days of her being inducted in the Parkash Singh Badal cabinet in March 2012. She is currently serving her five-year sentence and has appealed against conviction in the high court.
“Indian cultures invest heavily in children. Girls are taught to be subservient and go as per family wishes. Disobeying is not acceptable,” adds Chandigarh-based psychologist Dr Simmi Waraich.
“The higher the stakes, the more harm one thinks there will be to the honour and the more important it becomes to save it at any cost. Even if one repents later,” adds Dr Rajesh Gill, sociologist at Panjab University, Chandigarh.
SEETHING ANGER SNUFFS OUT FOUR-YEAR-OLD’S LIFE
In May 2013. a 29-year-old woman suffering from severe depression murdered her four-year-old daughter and hid her body in her room in Ludhiana. Later, she attempted to commit suicide several times but managed to survive.
Accused Harsimranjit Kaur was married to Jaskaran Singh, a cloth trader in 2008, but the marriage failed and the two separated. She even got a dowry harassment case registered against her husband. However, following mediation, the two came back together and started living in a rented accommodation in Model Town.
Police said Harsimran decided to kill herself and her daughter to pin blame on her in-laws. She even wrote on the wall of her house that her in-laws would be responsible for their death. She killed her daughter Jasmyra with a knife and then tried to hang herself from the ceiling fan. She then consumed poison and even tried setting herself on fire. Finally, she jumped in front of a train but survived after her leg was severed.
Sociologist Dr Rajesh Gill says in all such cases it’s the priority of the woman that takes the centrestage. “At that moment, what she does is more important than anything else. Be it honour, her own love, money, revenge. Even if her own child comes in the way of that priority, he or she is removed.”
REVENGE, PASSION & CRIME
In November 2013, the body of a fouryear-old girl Manpreet Kaur was found on a vacant plot in Alamgir village. The girl had been kidnapped by Manoj Kumar, a tenant of victim’s father. Kumar killed the child in connivance with the girl’s mother Sunita.
Kumar took the girl to Alamgir village where he first drowned her in a tubewell and then wrapped her body in a piece of cloth and later dumped it. The police said Sunita had developed relations with Manoj and was demanding `5 lakh from her husband Gurpreet Singh to leave him.
However, Gurpreet put his foot down and refused to pay her anything. Sunita told police that she wanted to teach Gurpreet a “lesson”.
VIOLENCE IN ITS WORST FORM
In July 2012, Ludhiana woke up to a cold-blooded murder of an eight-year old girl and her 62-year old grandfather by her stepmother Reena. The unrepentant mother related the story of how she killed them both without a speck of emotion to the police.
“But everyone does not kill their daughters for disobeying. The ones who kill are high on aggression and low on empathy. Often the women may not have formed an identity of their own. Their identity may be linked to money or power or honour in the community which they are not ready to give up when it is threatened, even by their own children,” points out Waraich.
Reena, a postgraduate from Phagwara, said she was upset at her father-in-law making physical advances towards her. “I killed my father in law with a construction hammer. Then I went to my bedroom and slept, she said. When her step-daughter Reva came home from school, she found her grandfather dead. “So I decided to kill her as well. I took the same hammer and locked the main door. Reva saw me and tried to run away but I caught her and hit the hammer on her head. Reva’s blood splattered on my face,” added Reena in her statement to police.
Reena tried to set the room on fire, but failed. When police reached the house, they found half-charred bodies of the victims in a room. This was Reena’s second marriage. Reva’s mother had died soon after her birth and she was being brought up by her mother’s family at Amritsar. Her father had brought her to Ludhiana just three months ago.