On the night of June 3, Saturday, a 21-year old pregnant Muslim woman was burnt alive in an insipid village of Karnataka’s Bijapur district for marrying a Dalit man.
Banu Begum and her 24-year old husband, Sayabanna Sharanappa Konnur of Valmiki tribe, both residents of Gundakanala village, had fallen in love and had kept their relationship hidden from their families for two years.
On January 22, Banu’s parents learnt of Sayabanna and brutally assaulted him.
“Her parents dragged her to the police station and made her file a case of false rape against Sayabanna. They created a huge commotion at the police station while claiming that their daughter was a minor,” said the Talikote Detective Superintendent (DSI), speaking to The Logical Indian.
“The very next day, January 24, they eloped to Goa,” he added.
Banu and Sayabanna decided to live away from their families. They got their marriage registered in February, but decided to come back after Banu got pregnant. During these four months, the couple thought that their families would accept them.
However, they didn’t.
Sayabanna returned to Gundakanala on Saturday morning with his wife and both of them broke the news of Banu’s pregnancy to their families.
“Neither the boy’s nor the girl’s parents were pleased with the match. On Saturday night, when the couple refused to give in to their families’ demands, Sayabanna’s father, brothers and uncle got drunk and brutally beat him up. Banu’s mother, brother and sister also attacked him, with Banu’s mother pelting him with stones,” said the DSI.
Sayabanna had assault marks all over his body, but while he managed to escape, Banu couldn’t.
“He rushed to the police station severely injured and narrated the entire incident. But by the time he got back to save Banu, the family members had already put her on fire,” he added.
Sayabanna kept screaming for help as he sustained minor burns while trying to save his wife. None of Banu’s neighbours came to his aid as they watched her burn and shut their doors on Sayabanna’s cries for help.
The villagers also believed that the young couple were at fault and did not testify against the family members when questioned by the police.
On Sunday, Banu’s mother, sister, brother and Sayabanna’s father were arrested for murder and assault. Banu was stabbed multiple times before being burnt alive.
Four others accused in the case – Banu’s two elder sisters and two brothers – are still are large while the police is trying to find and arrest them.
The Logical Indian take
In a report by Al Jazeera, India had registered an almost 800% increase in the number of “honour” killings last year.
The Indian police registered 251 cases of honour killings in 2015, in comparison to 2014’s 28 reported cases.
In most cases, the victim is a woman.
Honour killings happen for the same reason a crime like rape does – prevalence of patriarchy and discrimination in the society.
These crimes, mostly prevalent in the rural parts of India, are sparked by couples marrying without their parents’ consent. A section of the Indian society does not view marriage as a commitment between two individuals, but as a contract to upload the societal status of families.
As the onus of upholding this status mostly falls upon a woman, it is she who “pollutes the sanctity of the caste system” by marrying someone her parents did not approve of.
But in extreme cases, as relatives turn into murderers for protecting the “dignity” of the family, the questions remains – What is the honour in honour killing?
The Logical Indian strongly condemns the murder of Banu Begum. It is disheartening to see that such instances still prevail in 2017. The only solution that remains with us, as a society, is to educate and spread awareness from the grassroot level about the evils of patriarchy and caste system. We hope that the murderers of Banu are rightly punished and she gets the justice both she and Sayabanna deserve.