Guest Post by Saikat Kundu:

 

The Manoj-Babli honour killing case was the honour killing of Indian newly-weds Manoj Banwala and Babli in June 2007 and the successive court case which historically convicted defendants for an honor killing.

The Khap panchayat’s ruling was based on the assumption that Manoj and Babli belonged to the Banwala gotra, a Jat community, and were therefore considered to be siblings despite not being directly related and any union between them would be invalid and incestuous.

According to Home Minister P. Chidambaram, the UPA-led central government was to propose an amendment to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in response to the deaths of Manoj and Babli, making honour killings a “distinct offense”.

Manoj’s and Babli’s families lived in Kaithal.

Manoj’s mother, Chanderpati Berwal, had four children, of which Manoj was the eldest.

Chanderpati was widowed at the age of 37, when Manoj was only 9. Manoj owned an electronics repair shop at Kaithal and was the only member of his family receiving income.

Babli’s mother, Ompati, also had four children, including eldest son, Suresh, and Babli.

Manoj was two years older than Babli.

On 26 April Babli’s family filed an First Information Report (FIR) against Manoj and his family for kidnapping Babli.

On 15 June Manoj went to court with Babli, testifying that they had married in conformity with the law and that he did not kidnap Babli.

Chandrapati did not attend the trial so that Babli’s family would not be aware that Manoj and Babli were in town.

According to a statement filed by Chanderpati, later that day, around 3:40 p.m, she received a call from a Pipli telephone booth from Manoj, who said that the police had deserted them, and Babli’s family members were trailing them, so they would try to take a bus to Delhi and call her back later.

The family then understood that Manoj and Babli were the victims of the kidnapping.

Babli’s brother Suresh forced her to consume pesticide, while four other family members pushed Manoj to the ground, her uncle Rajinder pulling a noose around Manoj’s neck and strangling him in front of Babli.

After autopsy, police preserved Manoj’s shirt and Babli’s anklet and cremated the bodies as unclaimed on 24 June.

Police discovered a number of articles in the Scorpio used to kidnap the couple—parts of Babli’s anklet, two buttons from Manoj’s shirt, and torn photographs of the couple.

No Karnal lawyer would adopt the case, so Manoj’s family had to find lawyers from Hisar.

Bahadur also cited the contractor’s statement and the last phone call from Manoj, in which Manoj had related that Babli’s relatives were trailing them.

He asserted that there was no evidence against the accused and that it was all contrived by the media, no evidence that the khap panchayat ever met to discuss the fate of the couple, and no evidence indicating that Manoj and Babli were dead.

The leader of the khap panchayat Ganga Raj (52), was given a life sentence for conspiracy, while the driver, Mandeep Singh, held guilty of kidnapping, was given a jail term of seven years.

The personnel included head constable Jayender Singh, sub-inspector Jagbir Singh, and the members of the escort party provided to the couple.

The SSP’s statement was that “[i]t is correct that the deceased couple had given in writing not to take police security any further, but Jagbir Singh was well aware that there was a threat to their lives from the relatives of the girl.”

The case was the first resulting in the conviction of khap panchayats and the first capital punishment verdict in an honour killing case in India.

Also, few honour killing cases went to court, and this was the first case in which the groom’s family in an honour killing filed the case.

In a statement to the press, Home Minister Chidambaram slammed the khap panchayats, asking tersely, “Who are these khap panchayats?

Surat Singh, director of the Haryana Institute of Rural Development in Nilokheri, anticipated that the verdict will end the diktats of khap panchayats.

The honour killing inspired Ajay Sinha to produce a film titled Khap—A Story Of Honour Killing starring Om Puri, Yuvika Chaudhary, Govind Namdeo, Anuradha Patel, and Mohnish Behl, to raise awareness about the khap’s diktats.

Days after the verdict, a The Times of India headline hailed Chanderpati, who struggled years for justice, as “Mother Courage” for having done “what even top politicians and bureaucrats have shied away from doing—taken on the dreaded khap panchayats.”

The khap panchayats remain defiant even after the verdict.

“The verdict has done justice to my son’s death, but it has not changed the way the village works,” Chanderpati said.

A maha khap panchayat (grand caste council) representing 20 khap panchayats of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan held a meeting on April 13, 2010, in Kurukshetra to challenge the court verdict and support those sentenced to death in the case.

Each family in Haryana that was part of a khap panchayat was to contribute ₨10.

The khaps threatened to boycott any MP and assembly member from Haryana who did not back the khaps request.

After the court judgement, state authorities began to take on the khap panchayats, and consequently, many village sarpanches (village heads) supporting these councils were suspended.

On 5 August 2010, in a Parliament session, Chidambaram proposed a bill that included “public stripping of women and externment of young couples from villages and any ‘act which is humiliating will be punished with severity'” in the definition of honour killing and that would “make khap-dictated honour killings a distinct offence so that all those who participate in the decision are liable to attract the death sentence”.

On 13 May 2010, the court admitted the appeal of him and the other six convicts challenging the court’s verdict.

On 11 March, the Punjab and Haryana High Court commuted the death sentence awarded to four convicts – Babli’s brother Suresh, uncles Rajender and Baru Ram and Gurdev in the Manoj-Babli honour killing case to life imprisonment.

All this information is collected from Wikipedia & some other sites. No personal vendetta or opinion is served.

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