[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the wee hours of February 17, 2002, Vikas Yadav and his cousin Vishal, kidnapped and brutally murdered 25-year-old Nitish Katara, who was an MBA graduate and an IAS officer’s son. The reason for the murder was Nitish Katara’s intimacy with Vikas’s sister Bharti Yadav. They took the help of a contract killer, Sukhdev Pehalwan, to carry out the murder. On February 20, 2002, Nitish Katara’s body, charred and hammered, beyond recognition was found near Hapur crossing in a village in Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh. Vikas and Vishal Yadav abducted Nitish Katara from a wedding in Ghaziabad. While their friends assumed that Katara would return soon, he didn’t return.
Vikas Yadav, Uttar Pradesh politician DP Yadav’s son and Vishal, his nephew, could not tolerate the love affair between their sister and Katara and resorted to murder. In 2014, the Supreme Court upheld their case as that of ‘honour killing’ fueled by the belief in parochial caste system. The same year, Delhi High Court sentenced the accused to 25 years in jail without remission and added an extra five years for destruction of evidence. In the Nitish Katara and Rizwanur Rehman cases, the girls (here Bharati Yadav and there Priyanka Todi) eventually refused to complain against their fathers and brothers, even after overwhelming evidence that their lovers had been killed or forced to commit suicide in cold-blood.
The High Court had called it an “honour killing” and said the crime was in the “rarest of rare category,” awarding the convicts the lengthy prison term. However, court refused to award them the death sentence, saying the possibility of their reformation and rehabilitation is not “unforseeably foreclosed”. The top court had last year upheld the conviction of the three men, observing that “only criminals are crying for justice” in this country. However, court had also rejected a petition by victim’s mother Neelam Katara that they should be given the death penalty.
The Kerala and Karnataka HCs have absolutely no right to order adult women to stay with their parents. Such “enquiries” into every marriage of a Hindu man with a Muslim woman – be it by Courts or the any state government –violate the Constitutional right to privacy and choice in matters of marriage, enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution, and upheld by numerous Supreme Court verdicts. Let us also remember that saffron leader Babu Bajrangi of Gujarat boasts of having ‘rescued’ thousands of women who have married outside the caste or community, and forced them to give up their husbands. Sadhvi Pragya’s organization too used to indulge in the same activity. And the Sri Ram Sene in the Dakshin Kanada district has indulged in innumerable attacks on Muslim and Hindu women who befriend each other. One young 15 year old schoolgirl even committed suicide after public humiliation by the Sene. The Courts’ observations provide a shot in the arm for the Sri Ram Senes and Babu Bajrangis – they can now claim their attacks on women are acts of ‘nationalism.’ We wonder why the courts never pass orders to ban Khaap panchayats and the Sri Ram Sene. Why court never order enquiries into suspected cases of honour killing, but the same court is eager to fan up communal and anti-women flames by making irresponsible comments about ‘Love Jihad’? ‘Love Jihad’ is a communal fantasy – a new pretext to attack the freedom of women to love and marry by choice, and to witch-hunt Muslim men. In the name of ‘Love Jihad,’ every Rizwan-ur-rehman can be branded a terrorist; every Priyanka’s right to choose can be denied on the grounds that she is ‘brain-washed’ by jihadis. Every police officer as well as every Pramod Muthalik are justified in harassing the Rizwans and Priyankas in the name of ‘national security.’ Women all over the country will certainly defy and resist any attempt – be it by Court or any government to police their freedom, or to bring their love and marriages, irrespective of community, under any scanner. Love Jihad’ is a new phrase coined by the Sangh Parivar – that is being echoed in courtrooms and cabinets across the country. The Sangh Parivar has claimed that thousands of Hindu girls are being lured by Muslim boys who befriend each other.
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