Honour Killing in Vasai

8 August , 2004 K K Prakasan
INCIDENTS of brutal violence against young couples, who defy community barriers through self-choice marriages, are occurring in different parts of the country at an alarming frequency. Not only the individuals who enter into inter-community marriages but quite often one of the families and, in some cases, entire communities find themselves at the receiving end of the worst forms of ‘punishment’ including murder and gang rape.
Take for instance the shocking incident of ‘honour killings’ in which four persons were hacked to death and two seriously wounded at Vasai, a western suburb of Mumbai. Prabhu Krishnan, an industrious young man in his early twenties, was stabbed in the early hours of May 17 at his house in Vasai (East) along with his father Krishnan Nochil, mother Indira Krishnan, sister Deepa Krishnan, a 13-year old cousin Bijith Balan and his friend Abhay Raj. Krishnan Nochil, Bijith Balan and Abhay Raj died on the spot and Prabhu Krishnan died a few hours later in hospital.
This heinous crime was committed by Prabhu Krishnan’s neighbour Dileep Tiwari and his associates as a revenge for Prabhu marrying Dileep Tiwari’s sister Sushma, a college-educated girl. The entire Tiwari family is suspected to be part of the conspiracy to ‘wipe out’ Prabhu Krishnan’s family, ostensibly to regain their ‘family honour’! They could not execute their murderous plan fully. Sushma, who is pregnant, escaped death as she was away in Mumbai with one of Prabhu’s relatives when Dileep Tiwari and others attacked Prabhu’s house. The other two members of Prabhu’s family, his mother Indira and his sister Deepa were wounded seriously but survived because the assailants mistook them for dead.
The police authorities and government officials did not take the quick and effective steps that a crime of this scale demanded. In fact, Prabhu Krishnan and Sushma had complained to the policemen at the police outpost near their home that they feared an attack from the Tiwari family. The policemen did not bother to take any action on that complaint. Even after being informed of the attack before dawn on May 17, policemen in the nearby Manickpur police station did not act swiftly.
The DYFI local unit and AIDWA Mumbai committee quickly came to the aid of the surviving members of Nochil family. AIDWA had previously handled a similar case of ‘honour killings’ at Panvel. That experience was put to full use in helping the victims of the present case. AIDWA’s Mumbai committee president Sonia Gill and secretary Sugandhi Francis visited the families of the victims. Even AIDWA national leaders, Brinda Karat and Subhashini Ali, visited Sushma and also the family of the murdered Bijith Balan and assured the relatives of all assistance. They visited the injured Deepa and Indira Krishnan at Bhagawati hospital where they were undergoing treatment.
The apathy of the police in particular and the state administration in general was glaringly evident in this case – indeed in most of such cases. The police did not arrest the criminals even after a week. Only when a delegation of AIDWA leaders comprising Ahilya Rangnekar, Brinda Karat, Subhashini Ali and Sonya Gill met the chief minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, there was some progress in the case. The delegation was accompanied by Balan Kannangara, whose son Bijith is one of the murdered. The chief minister spoke to the DGP to follow up the case and ensure quick action. He sanctioned financial assistance up to Rs 2 lakh from the CM Relief Fund towards the medical treatment of Indira and Deepa Nochil. He also assured police protection to remaining members of the Nochil family. AIDWA has been following up on the police investigations and security aspects as well as the hospital treatment and release of funds.
A good number of social organisations and citizens came forward to condemn the incident. A Citizens’ Action Committee was formed to help the victims’ families and to demand serious investigation of the case. The local CPI(M) and DYFI activists were instrumental in initiating and developing the citizens’ action. At the insistence of the CPI(M) and DYFI members in it, the Action Committee held a protest march and dharna in front of the Dy.S P office at Vasai, which was attended by thousands and addressed among others by AIDWA state secretary Mariam Dhawle, DYFI state secretary Shailendra Kamble and CITU leader P R Krishnan
The police have arrested Dileep Tiwari and two of his associates. His father and mother have also surrendered to the police. Some more culprits are remaining to be apprehended. Out of the two injured, Deepa Krishnan has been discharged from hospital but her mother is still admitted in the hospital.
The horrifying scale of this crime and the cruelty with which it was executed shocked a good section of the people. But those who rallied in the protest actions were mainly from the Malayali community to which Prabhu Krishnan’s family belong. Again, many organisations which joined the protest action saw this incident in isolation and failed to see its larger social dimension. It was the participation and the leading role played by the DYFI and AIDWA which saved the protest actions by the Citizen’s Action Committee from turning into a sectarian affair. The AIDWA leaders pointed out that such ‘honour killings’ are manifestations of the deep-rooted caste prejudices that determine social attitudes in our country. Crimes of this sort receive endorsement from our society, openly from some quarters and in a subtle fashion from a larger constituency. This is what leads to laxity and, in some cases, connivance from the part of the police in such cases. The AIDWA leaders reminded that tragedies of this sort are bound to recur unless we firmly fight the feudal attitude of denying women the right to live as free individuals. The larger struggle, therefore, shall be for the recognition of women’s independent identity and against treating them as ‘property’ of the family and community.