Hindu god brandishing a swordI blogged a couple years ago on this, and again a few times since, but it bears repeating: Religious violence is not limited to the sphere of the Abrahamic faiths. Sure, we tend to associate “religious violence” with things like the Crusades, the killings of abortion doctors, the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, and the Palestinian conflict, and so on. We sometimes assume, therefore, that religions outside of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic realm are “peaceful” by contrast. That India is home to famous pacifists like Mahatma Gandhi and the Jainist religion may fool us into thinking that country, with its Hindu majority, is not prone to religious violence.

But that’s just not true.

Several people were recently convicted for their roles in a Hinduism-motivated honor killing there, as the Washington Post reports (WebCite cached article):

No one in this village visits Chanderpati Banwala’s home, which stands at the end of a lane full of sleeping buffaloes and overturned wooden carts. The boycott began three years ago when her son eloped with his sweetheart, a neighbor from his clan.

But the marriage was short-lived. Village elders declared the relationship incestuous, a violation of ancient Hindu rules of marriage because the two were descendants of a common ancestor who lived thousands of years ago. As the couple tried to flee town, the young woman’s family chased them down and dragged them out of a bus on a busy highway. The groom, Manoj, was strangled, and his bride, Babli, was forced to drink pesticide. Their bodies were dumped in a canal. …

Despite pressure from villagers to remain quiet, Banwala took the case to court here in the northern state of Haryana. In March, five defendants were sentenced to death, the first time in India that capital punishment has been ordered in an honor killing.

This is, of course, far from anomalous:

Last year, officials in [the state of] Haryana recorded about 100 honor killings of young people caught in the war between clan, caste, culture and cupid. Banwala’s case is the first honor-killing trial to secure a verdict, although a similar trial is underway. In that case, four people are accused of beating and hacking a young man to death with sticks, sickles and scythes last year after he married a woman from a neighboring village, a relationship villagers also regarded as incest.

Unfortunately a lot of folks are unrepentant about this and consider “honor killings” of this sort a good thing and are openly advocating them:

In villages across northern India, the landmark verdict sparked an uproar, with clan councils fiercely defending prohibitions on unions within the same clan or gotra, a Sanskrit word, which each clan uses to trace its lineage. To these villagers, romantic love breaches codes passed down many generations.

“Manoj and Babli rubbed our village’s name in mud,” said Gulab Singh, a 60-year-old farmer, inhaling on a gurgling water pipe in a cattle shelter with other men in Banwala’s village. “For thousands of years, we have followed strict marriage rules. If my son transgresses these rules, I will kill him without a thought.”

The next time anyone suggests to you that it’s only the “religions of faith” (i.e. the Abrahamic religions) which are prone to religious violence, you can now explain otherwise. The truth is that all religions can cause things like this to happen.

Hat tip: Skeptic’s Dictionary.

Photo credit: ncracker.

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One Response to “Religious Honor Killings In India”
  1. [...] viewed as pacifist in nature, the truth is that they’re anything but. I’ve already blogged about metaphysically-motivated “honor killings” and mistreatment of “the [...]

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