‘Honour’ killing claims 21-year-old Delhi University girl, parents held

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PUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: In a horrific case of “honour killing” in the capital, a 21-year-old final year student of Sri Venkateswara, a leading college in Delhi University’s south campus, was allegedly murdered by her family because she had married a boy from another caste and region.

The victim, Bhavna, was allegedly strangled by her parents and uncle at their southwest Delhi home after which her body was taken to her hometown, Alwar, and quietly cremated, police said. Her parents — Jagmohan, a property dealer and local Congress party member, and Savitri — have been arrested.

Bhavna had on November 12 got married at an Arya Samaj temple to Abhishek Seth, 24, an assistant programmer at the Cabinet secretariat. Bhavna was a Yadav from Rajasthan while Abhishek is a Punjabi.

The girl was killed after the family persuaded her to come home, telling the couple that all was forgiven and that they would organize a ‘proper’ wedding ceremony, police said. Bhavna had come back to her husband after the family allegedly tortured her, but was cajoled into returning home a second time.

The girl’s parents were arrested for the murder on the basis of the evidence against them, Tejendra Luthra, joint commissioner of police (southwestern range) told TOI. Police are now looking for Bhavna’s maternal uncle, who played a crucial role in the murder, an officer said.

Bhavna lived with her family in D block of Bharat Vihar in southwest Delhi while Abhishek lived in Uttam Nagar, some 5km away. They had met through a common friend two years ago.

The couple secretly married on November 12 and then informed Bhavna’s family, who refused to accept it and threatened the couple. However, seeing the couple standing firm on their decision, Bhavna’s parents sought a truce.

Abhishek told TOI said that Bhavna’s father, Jagmohan, pleaded with them not to make the marriage public as it would destroy the family’s prestige.

“He told us that they would organize a proper marriage very soon so that they did not feel insulted in their community. After promising not to retract from his words, he took Bhavna away. I agreed, considering that their family prestige was at stake,” he said.

However, Bhavna’s parents began to torture her after taking her home. It became so unbearable that she ran away on November 14 and told Abhishek about her ordeal. However, her parents yet again landed up at his house, apologized profusely and took her back.

This was when, Abhishek believes, the family decided to kill their daughter. On November 15, Bhavna’s maternal uncle, Laakhan, called up Abhishek and threatened to kill both of them. “He was yelling and asking me to stay away from her. He said our marriage meant nothing and if I don’t mend my ways, he would shoot us both,” Abhishek added.

Soon after this call, Bhavna called him up and apologized for her uncle’s behaviour. “She asked Abhishek not to worry, saying her uncle was drunk. Bhavna’s mother too spoke to Abhishek and assured him that everything would be fine,” Abhishek’s friend Vishal said.

However, that night Bhavna was beaten up and strangled. The family then roped in a relative, Mahender, and asked him to get a car. The body was stuffed in a WagonR and taken to Alwar in Rajasthan, the family’s hometown. Her last rites were conducted before anybody got to know. A hunt is on to nab Mahender, who helped in the murder.

By the morning of November 16, Abhishek had got worried after Bhavna did not answer his calls or text messages. He called up Laakhan but he feigned ignorance. This was when Bhavna’s cousin called him up saying she had died and her body had been cremated.

Abhishek rushed to the police station and an FIR under sections of abduction (365 IPC) was registered. A police team was sent to Alwar. Bhavna’s parents told cops that she had died of a snakebite and they had brought the body to the hometown for performing the last rites.

“Our teams put them through sustained interrogation during which they broke down and confessed to have killed her. They were placed under arrest and sent to judicial custody to Tihar jail after being produced before a magistrate,” said Suman Goyal, DCP (southwest district).

The cops on Wednesday obtained police custody to interrogate them and gather evidence in the case. The site where Bhavna was cremated will be exhumed and samples sent for DNA testing so that her murder can be proven.

Sources said the cops will have to heavily rely on collecting scientific evidence as the family was careful in not leaving many clues.

“We are relying on circumstantial evidence and are obtaining forensic reports about the site and remains. We have also recovered some clothes. Apart from this, the last seen theory, call records, threats and torture allegations before the death will be our body of evidence,” said an officer.

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21 states, UTs join Centre in fight against honour killings

HONOUR KILLINGSPUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh have joined 18 other states to empower the Centre to bring a legislation against honour killings, in what could be a turnaround moment for the effort to curb the powers of caste and community bodies which seek to be the final arbiter of social mores and arrogate unto themselves the power of judiciary.

In its affidavit to the Supreme Court the Union law ministry has said besides Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Rajasthan,, West Bengal and UTs like Chandigarh, Dadra and Nager Haveli, Daman and Diu, Lakshwadeep and Puducherry, have supported the “Prohibition of interference with the freedom of matrilineal alliances bill.”

Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh — all marked by poor sex ratio and high incidence of gender inequality — have been among the sites of gruesome instances of honour killings in the recent past. For them to sign up to the campaign against honour killings is significant because of the political class’s diffidence thus far about taking on powerful khaps. All the three states opposed an earlier move for a central legislation against against honour killings. In fact the group of ministers set up by UPA on honour killing could barely meet a couple of times in the absence of unanimity on the issue.

IndiaTv69a527_honourThe development is also significant because states can be extremely reluctant to delegate their law making powers to the Centre on matters concerning law and order.

Law ministry’s affidavit, comes in response to a writ petition by Shakti Vahini which is scheduled to be heard on November 19.

The proposed bill drafted by the law commission in 2012, was expected to check the high-handed and unwarranted interference by caste assemblies or panchayats with sagotra, inter-caste or inter-religious marriages. In view of the rising number of incidents where young couples were excommunicated, tortured and killed for marrying within the gotra under orders from the Khap panchayats, the law commission recommended a threshold bar on congregation of people for condemning a marriage on the basis that the marriage has dishonoured caste, community or brought disrepute to the family or community concerned.

The penal provision for such unlawful assembly was proposed at imprisonment of six months to a year and a fine of Rs 10,000. The bill elaborated that criminal intimidation of the couple or their families would invite imprisonment ranging between one to seven years and a fine of Rs 30,000. The bill also proposes to make all offences cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.

Five condemned to death for India ‘honour’ killing

AFP NEWS

NEW DELHI — Five members of a family in India were sentenced to death on Friday for the torture and “brutal” murder of a young couple from Delhi in a so-called “honour killing” two years ago. The parents, uncle, aunt and brother of Asha, a 19-year-old woman killed along with her boyfriend Yogesh in 2010, were all condemned to hang by additional sessions court judge Ramesh Kumar.

Yogesh, a taxi driver, wanted to marry Asha, the daughter of a vegetable vendor, but the girl’s family was against the alliance because the boy belonged to a lower caste. India has seen an upsurge in such killings, which mainly involve young couples who marry outside their caste or against their relatives’ wishes and are murdered to protect what is seen as the family’s reputation and pride.

Autopsy reports revealed that the young couple had been tied with ropes, beaten with metal pipes and electrocuted, local media reports said. “Medical examination had revealed that the two had died due to the thermoelectric shock from repeated electrocution,” said the Indian Express newspaper.

Public prosecutor P.K. Verma told AFP: “All the five persons were handed the death penalty because it was proved beyond doubt that they tortured and killed the young boy and girl just because they were in love and wanted to marry.

“The murders were brutal and deliberate,” Verma added.

The convicted family can appeal against the decision in a higher court.

Last year, India’s Supreme Court said the death penalty should be given to those found guilty of “honour” killings, calling the crime a barbaric “slur” on the nation. It only allows the death penalty in what it calls the “rarest of rare” category.

Ravi Kant, a New Delhi lawyer who has been fighting to bring in a law which will provide specific, severe penalties to curb such killings, welcomed the punishment handed out Friday by the city court. “Such a punishment will certainly have a huge impact on the society. It will serve as a strong deterrent to one and all. The sentencing is also in line with the Supreme Court directive and it must be lauded,” Kant told AFP.

There are no official figures on honour killings, though an independent study in 2010 suggested that as many as 900 were being committed every year in the northern states of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

Many cases go unreported, with police and local politicians turning a blind eye to what some see as an acceptable form of traditional justice by families seeking to protect what they see as their honour. Prisoners can often languish for years on death row in India, with only one execution having taken place in the last 15 years — that of a former security guard hanged in 2004 for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl.

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