The Subject Association of the Department of Political Science, on February 7, 2012, screened a documentary film titled ‘Izzatnagari ki asabhya betiyaan’ (The immoral daughters in the land of honour) at its seminar room.
Documentary filmmaker, Nakul Singh Sawhney, dared to take his camera in the lands where the rule of the khap frightens the society to its fingernails. His film, ‘Izzatnagari ki asabhya betiyaan’, is first of its kind in the documentary films category and follows the tragedies of five protagonists and the ‘justification’ for those tragedies from the khap representatives themselves.
‘Honour Killings’ or ‘Honour Crime’ in India aren’t a new thing, however, the Manoj-Babli case that took the country by storm in the year 2007, was still shocking for many. The recent years have seen a major increase in intolerance among the orthodox groups, leading to rampant killings of young boys and girls especially in the states of Rajasthan, Harayana and western UP.
One of the girls featured in the film, Mukesh, left her home after realizing that the boy who had asked to marry her did not bother about her house arrest by her parents. By the time she realized that her parents could very well choose honour over their daughter, she decided to leave home. Breathing the fresh breeze of independence, Mukesh has taken up activism full time.
Gaurav, another face captured by Sawhney in his film, lives in hope that his wife, Monica, would someday return even if it were as an old woman. The couple was forcibly separated and Monica’s parents claim that she had died due to some disease. Gaurav recalls that Monica would tell him that she wanted to adopt a baby girl and show the whole world how a girl is supposed to be raised.
The film also captures the story and struggle of Manoj’s mother and sister who defied the khap in their village. Manoj’s sister, Seema, is studying to be a magistrate. The cameras also roll into the campus of Delhi University, telling the story of a PhD student, Anjali, hailing from a Jat family, who is an activist in a theatre group that debunks the subject of honour killings, and especially khaps.
Another great feature of the film is that Sawney managed to get the conceptions and ‘sentiments’ of the khap that claim no role in the killings of the ‘asabhya’ or immoral girls, as they define them, who defy all odds to marry the guy they love. Marrying within the same ‘gotra’ or clan is what the khaps claim to be objecting to. A deeper analysis into their minds often reveals that not only are the khaps against same ‘gotra’ marriages, but, as presumably, against inter-caste marriages and inter-religious marriages as well.
It turns out that land is the root to all their ‘sentiments’. If an ‘asabhya’ girl dares to marry into a lower caste, she might someday dare to claim right to her property as well. It is the shifting of land, the instrument of self-esteem or ‘honour’ in the Indian psychology, into the hands of a lower caste person that leads to restriction of the girls.
Sawhney, after the screening, remarked that the blooming matrimonial sites in India do not allow one to create an account without mentioning their caste or their religion.
He also said that the reason why we’ve heard many cases on ‘honour’ killings in the past years is because there has been a definite increase in those killings.
Moreover, the reason, he said, is that girls have started to rebel. There is awareness of rights and there is exercise of those rights. Perhaps, the courage of the girls have started to shake the chairs of the khaps, and there is no other way for the old men of the villages to protect their honour, but by claiming that they have one to protect.