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India: Caste costs lives: Violence against inter-caste couples exposes gap between law and reality

Saturday 29 September 2018, by siawi3

Source: The Times of India, September 21, 2018

The Times of India, September 21, 2018

Caste costs lives: Violence against inter-caste couples exposes gap between law and reality

The recent historic verdict of the Supreme Court decriminalising homosexuality was a recognition of the universal principle that love transcends gender, social norms and traditions. But two incidents from Telangana serve as a stark reminder of brutal ground realities. Both cases involve inter-caste marriages with the fathers of the women unable to accept the so-called lower caste status of their sons-in-law. In the first case, Amruta Varshini and Pranay Kumar – who had tied the knot at an Arya Samaj mandir in Hyderabad in January – became victims of a murderous plot hatched allegedly by Amruta’s father. The latter simply couldn’t come to terms with the fact that his daughter had married a Dalit, and is accused of hiring a contract killer to murder the young man.

On September 14, Pranay was killed outside a hospital right in front of his pregnant wife. The incident sparked protests and the police have now arrested seven people, including Amruta’s father. But the latter’s background as a real estate developer and reported political connections have raised concerns that justice may be subverted. Amruta herself is leading the charge to bring her husband’s killers, including her father, to book. As if this wasn’t shocking enough, just days later a man attacked his daughter and her husband in the middle of Hyderabad, again because the son-in-law was a Dalit. Although the couple escaped with their lives, the woman almost lost her forearm and the man received serious injuries in the attack.

So entrenched is caste in Indian society that it cuts across economic classes. Clearly, the country’s political leadership has been unsuccessful in mitigating caste prejudice. On the contrary, our netas find it convenient to cultivate caste vote banks. It’s also anybody’s guess whether caste-based reservations, as practised today, alleviate caste divisions in society or actually reinforce them.

Add to this a weak law and order machinery, and caste prejudice thrives in this climate of impunity. It doesn’t help when authorities rake up bogeys such as ‘love jihad’, meant to impede interfaith marriages. The solution lies in speedy prosecution in cases of caste violence and honour killing. The Supreme Court struck a blow for primacy of individual choice and freedom in its homosexuality ruling. The same principle should apply to inter-caste and inter-faith marriages. Indeed, such marriages may be the best antidote to toxic levels of caste and communal sentiment that are the bane of Indian society and politics today.