By Jason Burke
An Indian landowner has told a court he was right to beat his 18-year-old daughter to death and behead her fiance.
“I have no regrets … not even a little … This should happen. If society is to be saved, then it should happen,” Narendar Barak told a local judge a day after the double killing in the Rohtak district of the relatively prosperous Haryana state in India‘s north-west.
His daughter, Nidhi, an arts student, and her 22-year-old friend Dharmander, an information technology student, had fled to Delhi, only 50 miles away, to get married earlier in the week. Both come from the same “ghotra”, or clan-based community, and were forbidden by custom from marrying. Tradition also dictates that matches are arranged by parents rather than children.
The couple returned to their village after receiving assurances from their family that they would be allowed to marry and live peacefully, local press reports said, but were attacked by relatives shortly after arriving home. A small crowd of neighbours gathered but did not intervene, police said.
“They were killed in the house. The village is peaceful now. The father has shown no remorse, none at all,” Anil Kumar, deputy superintendent of police in Rohtak told the Guardian. Five people have been taken into custody and police are searching for the murder weapons. Local media reports describe both families involved in the murder as wealthy landowners.
Indian television has screened images of the man’s corpse lying in an open street. The woman was cremated in a nearby field.
In 2011 the Indian supreme court ordered that murders committed in the name of “honour” should face the death penalty.
While there are no reliable figures, studies have estimated the number of so-called honour killings in India at around 1,000 a year.
Haryana is known for its culture of patriarchal authority and violent retribution for transgression of traditions, enforced by local councils called Khap Panchayats. The foeticide of girls has led to a ratio of around 800 women to every 1,000 men in some parts of the state.
After a spate of gang-rapes of young women last year, council leaders blamed chemicals in fast food for the problem and “alluring” clothes worn by victims.
India’s problems with sexual violence towards women have been highlighted by the recently concluded trial of the men who raped and murdered a 23-year-old woman in Delhi last December. But ongoing problems with “honour killings” have received less attention, though experts say the phenomena are related.
Reicha Talwar, director of the women’s studies research centre at the University of Kurukshetra in Haryana, told the Guardian that a culture of impunity in the state contributed to the violence.
Kumar, the investigating officer in Rohtak, said the case was among the “rarest of the rare” and “hardly seen in Haryana”.