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Telangana ‘Honour Killings’ Show How Caste Matters, Though We All Want To Hide This Ugliness

Posted: September 21, 2018

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After the murder of a young Dalit man, Pranay in Miryalaguda, there emerges another horrific attempted murder by a father in Hyderabad.

Madhavi, a young woman in Hyderabad, battles for life in hospital after her father tried to kill his own daughter. Her ‘crime’? Marrying outside the caste.

The reality is that most Indians still hold deep-rooted notions of caste and superiority. The marriage of an upper-caste woman to a Dalit man in particular, is seen as ‘our girls’ being taken away outside the fold.

Children, and girl children especially are seen as the ‘property’ of their parents. So a girl daring to choose her own boyfriend or spouse is in itself a matter of shame to many. If she does, the expectation is that she should choose someone within the comfortable boundaries of caste, language, class…

The woman who goes outside of these boundaries is considered shameless, and ‘ungrateful’ to the parents who raised her – as though any child asked to be born and as if the only reason for parents to raise a child well is to receive a dividend in the form of unquestioned obedience.

No matter how we try to hide this ugliness (how often do you hear, “Caste doesn’t matter anymore!” “No one knows your caste in urban India”), the reality is that it does. Many of us who read the news about these horrifying murders sit smug, thinking of how ‘broad-minded’ we are, how not casteist, but the reality is there is plenty of caste in our own families and neighbourhoods which we ignore. We continue to excuse casteist behaviour like using separate utensils for ‘those people’, using words like hygiene and safety. We are comfortable with ‘those people’ cleaning our homes and the very utensils we eat from, but will not offer them the same.

We are comfortable with people from some communities doing manual scavenging work and dying for it. It doesn’t bother us, and we don’t even see its relationship to caste – how deeply entrenched in India is the relationship between caste and physically dangerous or dirty work.

The one thing most upper caste people have internalised – is the dirty bit; that castes lower down on the hierarchy than us, and in particular Dalit castes – are deeply inferior to ‘people like us’ and that intimate contact with them, like in the case of marriage, will demean us. It’s not just inter-caste marriage that is still a problem in India, but in particular, inter-caste marriages that involve a person from a Dalit community.

So much so, that a father would rather see his daughter dead, than married to a Dalit man. That he would rather kill his daughter’s husband and leave her soon to be born child without a father, than call a Dalit man his son-in-law.

Every day, the price of this deep-rooted hatred we carry is high, and as always, it continues to be paid mostly by Dalits, by young people, by those without power.

Image Source – TOI Video

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