Honour killings had been unheard of in Kerala. But the deaths of a 22-year-old girl and a 23-year-old man in a little over two months show 'shame killings' that Keralites believed was mostly a north Indian phenomenon are making their way to the state. The first incident on 22 March shocked Keralites because the accused in the murder of Athira was her father. Rajan, 42, allegedly stabbed his daughter to death since Athira chose a youth outside the family's caste as her life partner. While the girl was from a Thiyya family, her lover Brijesh belonged to a Scheduled Caste (SC).
Women's activists said women were the biggest sufferers under the present dispensation. Devika, associate professor at the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram said that crimes against the women have been on the rise for the past few years. "The police has been lax in dealing with crimes against women. A large number of women who married outside their family's faith are being denied justice by the state police by branding them as cases of love jihad. The love jihad cases being projected by the Sangh Parivar also fall in the honour violence category," Devika told Firstpost.
She said that honour violence was a culmination of the caste feelings gaining strong root in Kerala's society with the waning of the renaissance spirit. The demographic transition that the state has witnessed in the past few decades has aggravated the feelings, she added. "Parents in nuclear families are trying to use girls as tools of their prestige. They want to send the girls to families with higher social and economic status. The parents become intolerant when the girls slip away from their hold," Devika said.
She said that honour killings like the two reported in the past two months may be fewer in Kerala, but honour violence is as widespread here as in other parts of the country. These incidents don't come before the public eye as they are suppressed within the family.
Women's activist Advocate TB Mini said that the caste feeling that remained suppressed in the minds of the people had come to the surface after the BJP and RSS began spreading their wings in the state. The Hindutva ideology they sought to promote in the state had created a conducive atmosphere for the growth of caste feelings. "The CPM and its affiliates that acted as a bulwark against communalism in the past have compromised their ideology for the sake of power. The party has been following an appeasement policy to remain in power. The party has no consistent stand on issues now. It follows what suits it politically," Mini told Firstpost.
She fears that the communal harmony prevailing in Kerala will collapse if secular forces do not rise and check the slow and steady communalisation of society.