HT Image
HT Image

Power to you

This is a story of girls hounded sometimes to death for daring to love an outsider a man from another community caste or religion
By HT Correspondent | None
UPDATED ON FEB 08, 2012 07:12 PM IST

This is a story of girls hounded sometimes to death for daring to love an outsider a man from another community caste or religion



You don’t have to look far to find them. These girls are everywhere, right from the hinterlands to the heart of India’s über-modern metros; they are from well-off as well as non-privileged backgrounds in equal numbers. And every day, these girls seem to lose some essence of their selves, appear more torn between love and obligation, fearing the worst and hoping for the best.



While the khap (clan) panchayats of Haryana have long been notorious for sending killers after ‘disobedient’ couples, one of the most shocking recent killings took place last year in the capital of the country. Nirupama Pathak, 22, a Delhi-based journalist, wanted to marry a colleague, someone of a lower caste, and she was pregnant. One night, she SMS-ed her boyfriend that she had been locked up in her bathroom. Soon afterwards, she was found dead. The family charged the boyfriend with rape and abetment of suicide. But the post-mortem showed Nirupama had been asphyxiated, and her mother became the prime suspect.



Evidently, an educated, independent woman finding love in a metropolitan city is not safe from a violent society.



Seeing an increase in the number of honour killings related to intercaste marriages, the government and the Supreme Court have tried various approaches to curb such a crime. Either the efforts are not sincere enough, or the regressive social mindset is set too hard, because the torment continues. If a woman is not killed, she is abused, mistreated in a hundred other ways until she gives in.



Cuffed to conformity

Meet Natalie Joseph, a marketing professional in Mumbai. In her early thirties, she is well-paid, drives her own car and is always well turned out. But Natalie, so composed outside, is racked by doubts inside.



“I’ve known Rishabh for a decade now, since college,” she says. “We were colleagues, too. Then we fell in love. Now, we’re inseparable. My parents know him, and they actually like him. But for them, all that matters is that he is not a Christian. Rishabh has offered to convert, but that is not enough for them. My father, who retired as a colonel, is a preacher now. Naturally, the preacher’s daughter cannot set a bad example.



“For the past seven years, I’ve been waiting for my parents to accept Rishabh. Friends say we should get married anyway. Maybe in my twenties, I would’ve done that. Now I know that if I elope with Rishabh, I will be dead to my family. As it is, my elder brother (who had a Kannadiga girlfriend) and I have not spoken in five years.



“I don’t know if my parents want my happiness. They once watched while our church pastor railed at me for not being a good Christian girl. Three years ago, I had a nervous breakdown. So now my parents don’t talk of marriage at all. Rishabh has never tried to force me. But he, too, wants to settle down. When I see my friends so happy, I long to be like them. For now, I will wait. Maybe my parents will agree tomorrow, maybe a year later... Who knows?”



Escape from prison

Natalie has made a choice to live in a prison of her parents’ making. Meeta, a Marwari girl in Bengaluru, was locked in one: her in-laws’ home. “My parents pledged me to Alok when I was 10 years old. He was 25, carrying on the family business of pawn-broking. After I turned 19, they married me off to him. When I resisted him, my inlaws put me under lock-and-key. But I managed to escape and contact Vimochana (an organisation that works for womens’ rights in Bengaluru).



“My people are capable of doing anything to get me back. So, to keep me safe, didi from Vimochana contacted all the top police officers in the city. They also sheltered me in a ‘safe house’ for two months. Now I am 20. Didi is my guardian. She helped me get a job so I can earn a living. I will never go back to my family; I don’t know what they will do to me. So yes, I am scared sometimes, but also happy. I am sure Alok has remarried. After all, men can’t be without a woman for long.”



Pride and prejudice

Kaveri, 31, from Mumbai married for love, but her life with Vikram Singh has been forged from immense pain. Kaveri is a Coorgi (or Kodavathi), a member of a proud, martial race in Karnataka that fiercely guards its customs and culture. When the woman breaks that custom, her children are not considered Coorgi any more.



“I fell in love with Vikram, who is from Dehradun. In my father’s eyes, that is unforgivable,” she says. “My two sisters and I grew up knowing we had to marry within the community. We’ve seen girls (and boys) in love with non- Coorgis being brainwashed, not allowed to step out of the community. But that didn’t matter to me. Thankfully, my siblings, my mother and aunt supported me. They were by my side when I got married in Dehradun seven years ago.



“Our daughter is six. She will never be considered a Kodavathi. Vikram is keen that I teach her our language, but you need to be part of a community to imbibe the culture. My daughter will not have that experience. But I have no regrets. My father’s ego prevents him from acknowledging my family. I am secure in my love, my life.”



Still the dark ages

Dr Radhika Chopra, associate professor of sociology at the Delhi School of Economics, says it’s disheartening to see such cases even today, dictated by the traditional setup. “Despite giving our daughters the best education and letting them chart their own course of life, when it comes to marriage, they are expected to be traditional. Parents tend to get excessively concerned about their social standing. As a result, the woman is asked to toe the line or find her own way, as is the case in urban households where the woman has the courage to stand up for her love,” she explains. Chopra adds that though intercaste marriages are beginning to find gradual acceptance in the urban context, intercommunity marriages still see much more resistance, and in this, men and women “are subjected to an equal amount of pressure. Since women tend to be more emotionally vulnerable, they are subjected to more mental torture.”



According to Dr Susan Visvanathan, chairperson and professor of sociology, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, a woman is still perceived as having no identity of her own. “This stems from deep-rooted traditional thinking, where women are seen as synechdocal – their identities come from men, whether fathers, brothers, other male kin, sons or lovers,” she observes. A noted author herself, she points out that Indian parents tend to keep a hawk eye over their children’s choice of partner. “The work world has one set of rules, secular and modern; the traditional mores of the home are more regulating,” she states.



Does that explain why daughters are tortured? “Parents who do not believe in humane principles of conduct will ill-treat their daughter if she does not conform to custom. Human rights are as necessary at home as at the workplace,” Visvanathan adds.



A ray of light

Parents who cast off their daughters for the ‘greater good’ of the community have women like Donna Fernandes to contend with. Fernandes is co-founder of Vimochana and a women’s rights activist for over 25 years. She is also mentor, older sister and even surrogate mother for girls like Meeta. Fernandes points out that when parents educate their daughters, they broaden their horizons. “Then why expect daughters to remain traditional when it comes to marriage?” she asks. “The institution of marriage is a business, a contract. The rich merely conceal that aspect better,” Fernandes adds wryly.



She and fellow Vimochana members have been threatened, attacked and had their office ransacked for sheltering girls escaping from forced marriage to men many years older. These girls prove that despite the brutality, they are ready to stand up for their right to love, to marry the men of their choice. That is a fire worth stoking, even if the hand gets burnt at first.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
I&B minister Prakash Javadekar (ANI File Photo)
I&B minister Prakash Javadekar (ANI File Photo)

Notice against Manipuri talk show, served under new digital media laws, revoked

By hindustantimes.com, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 09:30 PM IST
In a letter to Manipur chief secretary Rajesh Kumar, I&B secretary Amit Khare said, "these powers have not been delegated to state governments, police commissioners/DMs."
Close
A senior BJP leader said the party wanted to clinch the seat-sharing deal before home minister Amit Shah's expected visit on March 7. In picture - Amit Shah and TN CM Edappadi K Palaniswami.(ANI)
A senior BJP leader said the party wanted to clinch the seat-sharing deal before home minister Amit Shah's expected visit on March 7. In picture - Amit Shah and TN CM Edappadi K Palaniswami.(ANI)

AIADMK, DMK continue seat-sharing talks with allies for TN assembly polls

PTI, Chennai
UPDATED ON MAR 02, 2021 09:31 PM IST
While a senior BJP leader said the party wanted to finalise the pact before Union Home Minister Amith Shah's expected visit later this week, the state Congress said the talks with DMK were cordial.
Close
The petition filed in the Supreme Court of India questioned the February 26 decision of the poll panel declaring eight-phase polling in West Bengal.(HT Photo)
The petition filed in the Supreme Court of India questioned the February 26 decision of the poll panel declaring eight-phase polling in West Bengal.(HT Photo)

News updates from HT: Plea filed in SC on eight-phase elections in West Bengal

By hindustantimes.com, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 08:49 PM IST
Here are today’s top news, analysis and opinion. Know all about the latest news and other news updates from Hindustan Times.
Close
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the inauguration of Maritime India Summit 2021, through video conferencing in New Delhi on Tuesday. (PTI PHOTO).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the inauguration of Maritime India Summit 2021, through video conferencing in New Delhi on Tuesday. (PTI PHOTO).

India to invest $82 billion in port projects by 2035: PM Modi

By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 02, 2021 09:12 PM IST
  • The capacity of major ports which was around 870 million tonnes per annum in 2014 has increased to around 1550 million tonnes per annum now, the Prime Minister said.
Close
Search and rescue operations for the missing underway in Chamoli. (ANI)(HT_PRINT)
Search and rescue operations for the missing underway in Chamoli. (ANI)(HT_PRINT)

Jharkhand govt begins compensation process for victims of Chamoli glacier burst

ANI, Ranchi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 08:44 PM IST
The families of the deceased will be given a sum of 1 lakh under the Jharkhand Interstate Migrant Labourers Survey and Rehabilitation scheme.
Close
The Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala will be held in a single phase on April 6 and the counting of votes will be taken up on May 2.(HT Photo)
The Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala will be held in a single phase on April 6 and the counting of votes will be taken up on May 2.(HT Photo)

Congress forms screening panels for TN, WB, Kerala, Puducherry assembly polls

PTI, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 08:37 PM IST
The screening committee of the Congress for the eight-phased West Bengal Assembly polls starting March 27 will have Delhi leader J P Aggarwal as its chairman.
Close
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi meets PSC rank-holders who are protesting outside the Secretariat complex against "backdoor" recruitment by the Kerala government in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday. (ANI)
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi meets PSC rank-holders who are protesting outside the Secretariat complex against "backdoor" recruitment by the Kerala government in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday. (ANI)

Rebel woes pose a threat to Congress in poll-bound Kerala

PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 08:32 PM IST
  • Party leaders fear that dissension may heighten in the coming days-- posters and notices have started appearing at many places against probable candidates.
Close
The petition questioned the February 26 decision of the poll panel declaring eight-phase polling in West Bengal as against three phases in Assam, and a single phase in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Union Territory of Puducherry.
The petition questioned the February 26 decision of the poll panel declaring eight-phase polling in West Bengal as against three phases in Assam, and a single phase in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Union Territory of Puducherry.

On West Bengal elections in 8 phases, a plea in Supreme Court

By Abraham Thomas, Hindustan Times, Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 08:01 PM IST
Elections will begin in West Bengal on March 27 and the results will be announced on May 2.
Close
Without naming anyone, Bikram Majithia asked the Speaker to take action against MLAs who left their parent parties to join others.(Twitter)
Without naming anyone, Bikram Majithia asked the Speaker to take action against MLAs who left their parent parties to join others.(Twitter)

SAD, AAP seek action under anti-defection law against MLAs who switched sides

PTI, Chandigarh
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 07:53 PM IST
The issue was raised by Shiromani Akali Dal MLA Bikram Singh Majithia during the zero hour on the second day of the Budget session of the state Assembly here.
Close
Opposition MLAs at a sit-in at the legislative assembly in Gairsain on Tuesday over Monday's lathi charge against villagers.(Kalyan Das/HT PHOTO)
Opposition MLAs at a sit-in at the legislative assembly in Gairsain on Tuesday over Monday's lathi charge against villagers.(Kalyan Das/HT PHOTO)

Police crackdown on villagers sparks pandemonium in Uttarakhand assembly

PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 07:48 PM IST
  • The opposition Congress accused the government of "high handedness" against the protestors especially women while drawing parallels with British rule and calling it "General Dyer's government".
Close
Balbir Rajewal added that the union will not support any political party in the upcoming assembly elections.
Balbir Rajewal added that the union will not support any political party in the upcoming assembly elections.

'Will send team to poll-bound states', says farmer leader

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Ayshee Bhaduri, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 02, 2021 07:49 PM IST
  • “We'll send teams to poll-bound states - to West Bengal and Kerala. We will not support any party but appeal to people to vote for the candidates who can defeat BJP.", said BKU leader Balbir S Rajewal
Close
A month ago, Saudi Arabia's interior ministry announced a 'temporary suspension' on flights from India.(Satish Bate/HT Photo)
A month ago, Saudi Arabia's interior ministry announced a 'temporary suspension' on flights from India.(Satish Bate/HT Photo)

On Saudi Arabia flight resumption, Hardeep Puri shares important update

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Amit Chaturvedi
UPDATED ON MAR 02, 2021 07:38 PM IST
Saudi Arabia has taken a number of steps to check the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). It has also banned international flights till March 31
Close
Speaker Vipin Parmar had submitted a formal complaint to DGP Sanjay Kundu for registering the FIR. In picture - Himachal Pradesh Congress MLAs holding up copies of the governor Bandaru Dattatreya’s address.(HT Photo )
Speaker Vipin Parmar had submitted a formal complaint to DGP Sanjay Kundu for registering the FIR. In picture - Himachal Pradesh Congress MLAs holding up copies of the governor Bandaru Dattatreya’s address.(HT Photo )

Congress walks out of HP Assembly over MLAs' supension

PTI
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 07:03 PM IST
The alleged incident had taken place outside the Speaker's office when the Governor was leaving for the Raj Bhavan after he cut short his address in the House following a ruckus on the opening day of the Budget session.
Close
Urging everyone to take part in the vaccination drive, 64-year-old Shailaja later said the initiative was going on smoothly in the state.(Facebook/@kkshailaja)
Urging everyone to take part in the vaccination drive, 64-year-old Shailaja later said the initiative was going on smoothly in the state.(Facebook/@kkshailaja)

Kerala Health minister, 2 cabinet colleagues take first dose of Covid-19 vaccine

PTI, Thiruvananthapuram
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 06:51 PM IST
While Revenue minister E Chandrasekharan received the jab from the vaccination centre at the same hospital,Minister of Ports and Museums Kadannappally Ramachandran got the shot from a hospital in his home district, Kannur.
Close
Odisha had conducted over 75.79 lakh Covid tests of which 79.5 per cent were through Rapid Antigen tests.(PTI)
Odisha had conducted over 75.79 lakh Covid tests of which 79.5 per cent were through Rapid Antigen tests.(PTI)

Faulty rapid antigen kits declared 25 students in Odisha as Covid-19 positive

By Debabrata Mohanty
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 06:46 PM IST
  • None of the students had any symptoms of Covid-19 and when their samples were again subjected to RT-PCR tests, the results were negative.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP