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Honour Killings

By Rajeshwar Singal | PUBLISHED: 18, Nov 2010, 13:41 pm IST | UPDATED: 15, Apr 2011, 13:41 pm IST

In recent years, Gurgaon has developed at a phenomenal pace, drawing comments even from celebrated British author William Dalrymple in his recent book, Nine Lives that this development witnessed in Gurgaon over last five to seven years would have taken much longer in UK and Europe.

Even though government has failed yet again, in keeping up with its own matching responsibility by providing necessary infrastructure for the massive private effort in establishing fine residential and commercial properties, fact remains that cities like Gurgaon, NOIDA, Bangalore, Pune, Navi Mumbai, continue to draw highly qualified, smart, young executives who work in multinational corporations and draw amazing salaries.

They have new found lifestyle on which their super incomes are spent lavishly, whether in shopping in plush malls, or on entertainment and recreation in clubs, or eating out in fancy restaurants, or holidays abroad. They are matched equally by young smart new entrepreneurs who are into new lines of business.

Many such businessmen from traditional businesses like real estate, retail merchandising, etc. are also making good money and even down market residential neighbourhoods, generally considered dowdy earlier, as they were built after partition of the country and plots had been given to families who had migrated from west Pakistan, are almost transformed into new.

In most such cases, the land has been recycled and new buildings with modern architecture and material have been raised in place of older structures. Parked outside each such building are at least two new cars, in place of perhaps a single car or two wheelers earlier. People even in inner cities are spending money on new sprung up ice cream shops, fancy eating joints, readymade garments stores, fancy barbers and salons, gyms and spas.

Such families from inner cities are also taking holidays by air and cruise liners to Goa, Andamans, Sri Lanka, Dubai, Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Macau, etc. Same is the story even in other towns like Jaipur, Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Indore, Bhopal, Lucknow, etc. All this has become possible through indigenously grown economy. All these people have made money from this very economy in recent years.

But has this boom in economy resulting in islands of prosperity in the country made any real change in general thought process on gender selection, or gender equality?

The answer certainly is a big no. We read and watch news everyday about increasing number of cases of marital discords leading to domestic violence and even suicides and murders. The common reasons behind all such cases are lack of adjustment and understanding between spouses who compete for space in professional and matrimonial lives.

Quite often it is difficult to establish whether professional problems crossed over into personal lives or vice versa, leading to unhappy developments. Again, the attendant issues like pressures from and responsibilities towards extended families on both sides, and professional unhappiness in the rat race also add further to the problems.

But, as mentioned earlier, development in economy has made no change in the thinking. We hear of dowry harassment cases with same frequency from rural, or semi urban areas as from the upmarket localities. If from the rural or semi urban areas, the dowry demands were limited to a small car or maybe cash of few lakhs, in the upmarket localities, these would involve a top of the line BMW or a Bentley, and a farmhouse. But common to both segments of the society were the female victims, whose bruised and mauled faces and bodies are displayed in competitive frenzy by TRP hungry news channels.

Another visible, but disturbing trend in the society, having same foundation of narrow thinking, has its adverse impact on general health of new generation. The gender competitive spirit and never ending desire for new things, higher salaries and professional achievement have put a great stress on minds and bodies of young men and women.

A large majority of young women are not able to conceive and have to spend lakhs on in vitro fertilisation treatment and the young men in early 30’s are increasingly seeking treatment for diabetes, clogged arteries and even erectile dysfunction. As a result, most married couples are delaying having babies and many are in their early or mid forties when they take their kids for nursery admissions.

In many cases, there are single parents of that advanced age or parents with second or even third marriage, bringing in kids for admission. But that would mean that the children would still be studying when the parents retire.

Again, the narrow thinking does not leave even such well placed families, as far as dealing with kids is concerned. There are frequent instances of parents with broken marriages sparring over kids and even involving children’s school authorities with conflicting demands. Another facet of same, old, traditional narrow thinking having a bearing on children is the showing off of wealth and otherwise general neglect of children.

New age children wish to be dropped to school in a latest model car or a six door limousine, while indulgent parents are willing and eager to meet these demands. But in the process, many parents are not even aware that their ninth or tenth grader kids are carrying miniature bottles of alcohol and even loaded guns to school. 

Though the spectre of honour killing has been around for long, mainly in rural areas, it is not only being reported upon more nowadays, but is also being witnessed among urban families.

While it cannot be denied that there is a perceptible or marginal shift in attitudes allowing mixed caste matrimonial alliances, honour killings are also increasing. Mixed caste marriages are mainly among well qualified professionals who had either studied together in same institutes or worked together in same IT companies located in islands of IT prosperity.

We have any number of instances of mixed marriages among young professionals from Haryana, south India, Bihar, and the like. But honour killing remains, even among prosperous families who have made millions by selling off properties and reinvesting money in other businesses.

Many such families charged with honour killings own expensive estates and luxury cars. What is even worse is the fact that most such families displayed a sense of achievement after committing the macabre crime. 

We cannot deny that economic development will continue at same pace, with perhaps marginal ups and downs periodically. But can we say that increased wealth will help change attitudes so that social evils can be eradicated? Appears to be difficult.