Question for Khaps – Child vs Parents. Who wins?

As a legal writer, I frequently pen articles on US divorces – including those involving child custody. One recurring theme that keeps coming up, is how the courts put the child’s welfare above that of the parents. In short, it doesn’t matter how much either parent “needs” the child for emotional support. What matters is which parent’s custody will be good for the kid. This is true not only in US law, but also in Indian law. The Indian Special Marriage Act 1954 insists that education and maintenance of children shall be the basis for granting custody.

So it was with irritation and amusement that I read a news piece reporting that our old friends the Khaps want to lower the marriageable age of girls to 15. The reason?

“By lowering the legal age of marriage, young couples can be prevented from eloping. A girl brings shame to her family when she runs away. Parents kill the guilty children in a fit of rage,”

This sums it up for me. The prime concern is the shame of the family. Not the welfare of the girl. Well, that’s kind of obvious – killing someone is hardly in the best interests of the victim! But I just can’t fathom the disconnect between how these people think, and how every major legal system in the world works.

Children don’t ask to be born. They have no inherent responsibility to feel gratitude for their parents who are after all just doing their duty. How then, can any parent demand a sacrifice of their happiness to preserve their “honor” (or “shame” in this case!)

Even assuming that “honor” is important, how can anyone sacrifice their children for their own selfish reasons? Doesn’t every parent desire to see their child succeed even at their own cost? I don’t have children myself, so I can’t really answer this apart from what I think should be the case. If you’re a parent, what’s your opinion on this “Child vs Parent” debate?

But one thing I am sure of. People who kill their children for such reasons view them as objects. They don’t see them as humans who have their own destiny and life. They want them to forever remain fettered, in chains and “under control.” They view their children as pet dogs – displease me and you’re of no more use. Actually that’s unfair. Dogs usually get a better deal than that.

They should never be allowed to have become parents in the first place. And they’re going to jail – or the gallows as they deserve.

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Comments

  1. I agree with everything you have said…I too can't understand how parents can kill their children…The worst part is, politicians like Navin Jindal endorse the views of organizations like the khaps to get votes…

    Reply

  2. Bhagwad I have two kids and I am not able to understand this.

    I don't think such parents care for their children at all – sons, maybe because they are seen as an investment, but not daughters. They raise them from babyhood as a favour – and the daughters feel grateful and feel they 'owe' their lives to their parents – which in a way they do, because it was very common until even in 1960s in Haryana and UP to kill new born baby girls. (now we kill female fetuses)

    I met this woman (I will blog about this too) born around 1959-61 (from a village in eastern UP) who said – very simply, that there was a gap of ten years between her,and an older male sibling, because "Baba didn't allow any daughters to be kept, mother says I wouldn't have been there if I was born when baba was still alive." I thought 'baba' (paternal grandfather) got the other girls abandoned, and my questions made her uncomfortable. It seems 'keeping' or 'not keeping' was seen as an option. Most families 'kept' one odd daughter almost out of charity. The khaps come from that generation – of her baba. Or they are raised by that generation on those same values.

    That is why law and the Constitution are so much more protective of human rights than religion, csutom etc ever could be.

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    • In reply to Indian Homemaker

      I guess you're right. Though I still don't get how a person can raise a kid, breastfeed her, clean her poop, sing songs and lullabies to her, watch her take her first steps and feed and clothe her for 15-20 years and still not love them enough to at least let them live! I think of all the effort needed to raise a kid and can't understand – if not for love, then why?

      Interestingly, I feel that if they only care for their sons as an "investment", then they don't love their them either! Suppose they had a disabled and mentally retarded son. Would they even consider throwing him away at birth? If not, why not?

      Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Bhagwad children (and people) with disabilities were treated badly, words like langda, loola (dumb), kaana (sighting someone who has lost an eye is said to bring bad luck, I had a maid you had a stone eye and someone told me that was why I gave birth to a daughter not a son) are used like cursed words. We are traditionally a very might is right society.

        In Punjab and UP sons were married to a brother's widow to make sure the property (the dead son's) and source of income (the living son) stay in the family. Have you see 'Ek Chadar Maili si'? It was said to be done to protect the widow – but the widow had no choice, and the brother (married or unmarried, and much older or much younger) had no choice.

        I have met people in recent years who want their son to divorce a girl he has married against their wishes – even though they have a grand daughter in two of these cases. We talk about sanctity of marriage only when it suits the parents or the community. In one case it was an arranged marriage but the mother felt the daughter in law of two years didn't respect her enough. Most of these sons were happy in their marriages – and if the parents loved them they would not want these marriages to break. I find such love very difficult to understand.

        Reply

      • In reply to Indian Homemaker

        IHM, my father's colleague had to marry his older brother's pregnant widow to keep the property within the family…Mind you, these were not uneducated people…The colleague's father was an IPS officer (commissioner of police, Patna) and one of his brothers was the governor of Kashmir and Assam…

        Reply

      • In reply to Sraboney

        I don't know what to call it, but that really doesn't sound like "love" to me. At least not the love I know. But we need to speak to one of these people in person to understand. I'm sure they will give their reasons…

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        I did ask the lady…She said she had no choice and her current husband didn't either…When the latter objected to marrying his bhabhi, his father emotionally pressurized him by saying it was his duty to look after his brother's wife and child since the said brother had done so much for him etc. etc….Also, it is a custom in their community…

        Reply

      • In reply to Sraboney

        Maybe these people view themselves less as individuals and more a part of the community. Like this guy says who had commented on one of my earlier posts on China…

        It's the only possible explanation I think

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        I've had many arguments with IP – he believes Cuba is a model country…

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Bhagwad they are a part of a community but a much bigger one, a democracy called India – but they don't get to dictate the rules in that community.

        Reply

  3. /** IHM, my father’s colleague had to marry his older brother’s pregnant widow to keep the property within the family…Mind you, these were not uneducated people…The colleague’s father was an IPS officer (commissioner of police, Patna) and one of his brothers was the governor of Kashmir and Assam…
    **/

    I dont get the logic, particularly on the reasoning of keeping property within the family.. Even if your father's colleage had married a different girl, the property will still be with the family as the girl will come to his house..

    Reply

    • In reply to senthil

      Nice to see you here Senthil :)

      Maybe it means that since the older brother died, his wife would now be the legal property owner. To prevent her marrying someone else and taking the property out of the family, he was forced to marry her…

      But I'm just guessing. I don't know if my interpretation is correct.

      Reply

  4. Coming to the main topic of this post, the author (Bhagwad) doesnt know about khaps, nor he knows about the life of the rural people.. He doesnt know what a community life is..

    With all such ignorance, how can he understand the honour killing?

    /** Children don’t ask to be born. They have no inherent responsibility to feel gratitude for their parents who are after all just doing their duty.
    **/

    I think i replied to this in some other post.. The duty of any parental living being is in feeding its children till it can walk itself, and to protect it till it can protect itself.. In such case, the minimal duty of a typical human parent is to provide his child with food.. Education is NOT a duty of the parent at all.. Its the duty of a state or nation to educate its citizen.. But today, indian parents have been shouldering the additional burden of working hard to earn to pay the exhorbitant fees for their child..

    Imagine what is the necessity for that.. The parents could have enjoyed their life, by not stressing so much, and could have sent their child to work right at 14th age (If law doesnt restrict, even at earlier ages).. The child can never question the parent nor any one else..
    But most parents did not do that, NOT because for their happiness.. but because, mainly for empowering their child.. Everyone knows, how much hardwork one has to put to earn money, particularly for the farmers and labourers..

    But above all, every family wants their child to be married to a known family within their caste, so that they could have a strong relations with their daughter, both at family level and at community level.. when the daughter marries another caste guy, the entire community & the relations from the groom side changes, and thus they family gets disconnected from their daughter , which they could not bear..

    Atleast, the inter caste marriages are left off in many cases now a days.. But how do a family or a community, accept a marriage b/w a brother and sister? There is no solution for this, except to prevent such occurences..

    I give a challenge.. Just go to any of the dalit colonies in any of the villages.. ask them, if a boy and girl can marry within the same gotra.. and let me know what answer they give..

    Its not just with khaps.. But a majority of rural india, is against same gotra marriage.. but they dont have a platform to express themselves..

    Reply

    • In reply to senthil

      Let me try and make one point. If a boy and girl get married against a community's wishes, it's very clear they no longer want to be part of that community. If two people wish to leave and start their own life, who are you to stop them?

      Senthil, I don't know how you can write this:

      can he understand the honour killing?
      If innocent people in the prime of life are killed, it is wrong. There's no more discussion. Yes, you can discuss the motives etc, but whoever kills needs to be punished.

      Do you agree with this basic idea? That killing is wrong no matter what the motivation?

      Education is NOT a duty of the parent at all
      I don't agree. When a person brings a child into this world, it is his/her responsibility to ensure that the child has the best possible chance to succeed. And that includes education. It's a parent's job to educate their child. Otherwise, they should not have children. What's more, they can be taken to court for not doing this.

      Why should a child feel gratitude for someone who is only doing the decent thing?

      Of course, every child will feel a certain amount of gratitude to their parents. But that doesn't mean they will sacrifice their life's happiness to pay it back! Every person's life is their own and they have the right to try and live a happy life without hurting other people.

      "family gets disconnected from their daughter , which they could not bear.."

      Which is more important? The child's happiness or the parent's? Which normal parent will put their own selfish happiness above their children?

      how do a family or a community, accept a marriage b/w a brother and sister?
      ask them, if a boy and girl can marry within the same gotra

      How about asking the boy and girl? Let the relatives marry each other if they want. If a boy and girl want to live their lives alone, then they have that freedom as guaranteed in the constitution.

      Reply

  5. /** In Punjab and UP sons were married to a brother’s widow to make sure the property (the dead son’s) and source of income (the living son) stay in the family.
    **/

    Btw, what is the problem with you, if the groom's family and the bride's family agrees to it?

    Reply

    • In reply to senthil

      No one's stopping them. As long as they marry of their own free will, no one in the world is stopping them. It was only being pointed out that such pressures exist which force a person to marry someone whom they don't love.

      Reply

  6. /** If two people wish to leave and start their own life, who are you to stop them? **/

    If that two people happen to be a son and daughter of a parent, will they allow? Or will the law allow?

    /** If innocent people in the prime of life are killed, it is wrong. There’s no more discussion. Yes, you can discuss the motives etc, but whoever kills needs to be punished.
    **/

    I did not ask you whether honour killing is right or wrong.. I asked, can you understand the honour killing? Just plain intellectual question..

    /** When a person brings a child into this world, it is his/her responsibility to ensure that the child has the best possible chance to succeed.
    **/

    In what way are you setting such a rule for a person? Who fixes responsibiltiy here? And how do you define best possible chance ? and who decides it?

    /** How about asking the boy and girl? Let the relatives marry each other if they want. If a boy and girl want to live their lives alone, then they have that freedom as guaranteed in the constitution.
    **/

    You are dragging the constitution here.. does constitution allow marriage b/w brother and sister of the same parent? Or atleast, the brother & sister of same father, with different mother?

    Note: I am taking the most contradictory stand in my comments, only to bring the most out of this debate, intellectually.. If you feel, outraged or disgusted over my comments, i apologize in advance and i will opt out of this discussion.. Some of the points i may be repeating here, but its unavoidable..

    I am dealing the entire issue only from intellectual angle and i have deliberately kept away my moral sense here..

    Reply

    • In reply to senthil

      No Issues Senthil :) I'm glad we're discussing this decently without name calling.

      Here's what I think:

      "If that two people happen to be a son and daughter of a parent, will they allow? Or will the law allow?"

      I don't know about parents, but as it stands right now, the law won't allow it.

      "Can you understand the honour killing?"

      Yes. Every killing has some motivation or the other.

      In what way are you setting such a rule for a person? Who fixes responsibiltiy here? And how do you define best possible chance ? and who decides it?

      It makes sense no? If you're responsible for bringing a helpless human into this world, that becomes your responsibility to give it the push to succeed. Of course, a person can be a jerk and just give food and clothing (and there are some who do this). But some laws are meant to protect the weaker sections of society – and children are one of the weakest.

      What I'm saying is that it's nothing special if a parent educates their child to the best of their ability. If a parent doesn't do it, then they're irresponsible…

      "does constitution allow marriage b/w brother and sister"

      The constitution has nothing to say about brother/sister marriage. The law does. The law can be changed, but not the constitution.

      Reply

  7. /** I don’t know about parents, but as it stands right now, the law won’t allow it. **/

    Then the intellectuals should not be screaming about Khaps.. particularly the media dawns..

    /** Yes. Every killing has some motivation or the other. **/

    But i am asking about how far you have understood why honour killings happen.. after your reply i will share mine..

    /** But some laws are meant to protect the weaker sections of society – and children are one of the weakest.
    **/

    I dont want to go in to the weaker / stronger politics.. but tell me, why should you define responsibility for others?.. as a father, i have all the rights to decide how much i should do to my child.. i can just simply send my child to SSLC and then ask him to mind himself.. or i can work hard, earn more and send my child to college or to any level of education.. that's my prerogative.. you cannot label any one just because one doesnt send their child to school.. because, the current schooling is a rotten system, which degrades a person instead of refining..

    I would prefer a skill oriented class for a child, which will enable him as a skilled worker..

    YOu people live in urban areas, and possibly posh areas, without ever understanding how rural people's life style is.. and you form all the opinions just through the idiot box..

    I think with the internet, you get chance to interact with different types of people.. so understand the diversity of life style..

    Education is a state's responsibility and NOT parents.. If you see all pre-british native states of india, education has always been a free one and NOT a business enterprise.. Even under british rule, the independant states like Bellary and mysore had 100% literacy with their free education..

    Instead of questioning the system, instead of reviewing our existing system, you people throng on the innocent khaps, and other rural india, for the fault of the colonial beurocracy and politicians..

    Reply

    • In reply to senthil

      Then the intellectuals should not be screaming about Khaps.. particularly the media dawns..

      I think we'll start screaming when it actually affects someone.

      But i am asking about how far you have understood why honour killings happen

      What do you mean by "understand?" I know the motivations. But I don't excuse them.

      why should you define responsibility for others?

      I don't. As a father, you must decide and do what you think is the best you can do. If parents have the ability to help their child according to what they think is right and don't put in the effort to do that, then they have to live with the knowledge that they're cheating their child.

      You can't keep a child like a pet dog at home and just feed and provide shelter. Humans are special because of their mind. And the mind needs nourishment as much as the body. So to realize the potential inherent in all humans, every child's mind must be developed along with the body. And after all, this is education – no matter how it's done, whether at school or at home.

      And I'm sorry. Parents have children, and education is their moral responsibility. The state can help out, but that shouldn't be taken for granted. If you want the state to fully educate children, we have to hike up our taxes by a huge amount like they have in the US – then the state can afford it.

      Reply

  8. Some people see children as convenient investments. Educated and fed well only if they provide returns which is provided by sacrificing their freedom and happiness for the parents. If the child can’t be a status symbol? ‘Honor’ kill it.

    The child is also seen as an old age plan.

    Doesn’t girl baby killing show how Indian’s see their children?

    Reply

    • In reply to Indian Homemaker

      Good way to put it. When such is the case, why should the child feel any gratitude? They're not viewed as human beings if girls are not educated, killed in the womb or at birth or need to be gotten rid of as soon as possible.

      Much better to have a compliant robot. I don't blame couples from escaping! At least they get to live their own lives for themselves.

      Reply

  9. Christina says

    Bhagwad you are a very sensible person and I enjoy reading you.
    As a parent, I do not understand how one could literally kill their own child. I cannot possibly fathom this. It is completely incredible to me. I can’t begin to wrap my head around it and cannot overstate how unbelievably appalling I find it. Especially for such a thing as marrying the person they love instead of the one you want them to. I want my children to be healthy and happy, and to live their own hopefully very long lives. Someone said they could not bear to be disconnected from a child who married ‘out’, how then could they ‘bear to be disconnected’ from her by killing her!?
    I agree with you on education too. It is every parents duty and right to make sure their child is as well equipped as possible to succeed and ALSO to contribute (or at least not be a detriment) to others and the world. This education could include formal schooling, home schooling, college, tradeskills, social skills and manners, basic house and bookkeeping, budgeting, driving, technology, critical thinking, politics, religion, etc. and so on. Parents are going to be able to see to the educations of their children, in whom I assume they are invested in various ways, much better than a distant, uncaring entity is able to do.

    Reply

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