Haryana cannot shy away from deterrence

TRIBUNE EDITORIAL

IT is deeply regrettable that Haryana under the Congress government of Bhupinder Singh Hooda has shown a perceptible tendency to soft pedal action on the alarming practice of ‘honour killings’ in the state wherein a person is done to death for bringing perceived loss of honour to a family or families. The recent revelation in the columns of this newspaper that after taking a position before the Supreme Court in November last that it concurs with the Centre on amending the existing laws to provide for more stringent punishment for perpetrators of honour killings, a few months later the Haryana government took a new position through an affidavit dissociating itself from the pro-Centre stand it had taken earlier, unmasks the hypocricy of Hooda’s claims of being strongly opposed to such killings.

The State government’s volte face apparently had to do with political expediency and vote bank politics in a state that is heavily rooted in upper caste domination. The Hooda government evidently feared that it would be seen to be on the wrong side of the ‘khap panchayats’ which are dominated by certain castes and are known to hand down such punishment mostly to those who defy societal norms by marrying out of caste. It is indeed difficult to believe that the Centre’s tacit nod was not taken by the State before taking such a retrograde step.

Significantly, out of the five states most affected by ‘honour killings’, Haryana is the only one that has opposed changes in criminal laws, including booking all members of a gathering that orders such killings under murder charge, along with those who actually commit the crime. Mr Hooda had in August last disfavoured framing of any special provision to deal with the cases of ‘honour’ killing, saying that the existing law was sufficient to handle such matters. Whatever may be Haryana’s political fears, it is vital that changes be legislated to increase deterrence for such a heinous crime as ‘honour killing.’ An economically progressive state like Haryana cannot lag behind in such an important social reform.

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