Another Dalit youth was murdered this week. The ‘crime’ of 25-year-old Haresh Kumar Solanki was that he had dared to fall in love with and marry a woman from the ‘upper caste’. Eight family members of his wife Urmila, who is two-months pregnant, hacked him to death while a women’s helpline team was trying to negotiate with the father, Dasrath Singh Jhala, to send his daughter back to her husband’s home.
The brutal killing in Varmor village in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad district comes six months after Haresh and Urmila got married against her family’s wishes.
To ensure her Dalit husband doesn’t meet the same fate as Haresh Solanki, Sakshi Mishra from Uttar Pradesh, the daughter of BJP’s Bithari Chainpur MLA Rajesh Mishra alias Pappu Bhartaul, put out a video asking the police for protection from her father and “his dogs (henchmen)”, who have allegedly threatened to kill her husband Ajitesh and his family.
Have you ever heard or read any news where a Brahmin man has been murdered for marrying a Dalit woman or a woman from a ‘lower caste’? At least, I have never come across an incident of such nature. Why is it that any non-Brahmin woman marrying a Brahmin man doesn’t infuriate either family to the extent of killing the Brahmin groom?
It is quite apparent that the problem does not lie in an inter-caste marriage, and two things help explain this:
1. It is usually the woman’s family that would act on its discomfort over an inter-caste marriage in a violent way. In almost all cases of killing in the name of ‘honour’, it’s the woman’s family that is usually accused of murder. Moreover, a woman’s family harbours dislike for an inter-caste marriage only when the groom belongs to a ‘lower caste’. The dislike is greater if he happens to be a Dalit.
2. The Hindu society dislikes inter-caste marriages but not all inter-caste marriages. Otherwise, there would have been an instance of a Brahmin youth being killed in the name of ‘honour’ for marrying outside his caste.
Hindu tradition is against woman’s liberty
An Indian Hindu male just cannot bring himself to accept the fact that an adult woman has the liberty to love and marry as per her own free will. It does not matter that India’s Constitution gives the right to every adult, irrespective of gender, to choose his/her partner. Manusmriti (the laws of Manu), the Hindu society’s guide book on caste and other such matters, describes this mindset thus:
“पिता रक्षति कौमारे भर्ता रक्षति यौवने.
रक्षन्ति स्थविरे पुत्रा न स्त्री स्वातन्त्र्यं अर्हति” (section I, verse 9.3)
It says: A woman, at no stage in her life, is fit to be independent – the father should guard her until she is married, the husband during her adult life, and the son in her old age.
Even the most revered Hindu epic, Ramcharitmanas, has the author Tulsidas saying that a woman is ‘spoilt’ the moment she is given freedom: ‘जिमि स्वतंत्र होइ, बिगरहि नारी’.
Hindu scriptures allow marrying a girl from lower caste
As social norms changed over time, the Hindu society too was forced to change its attitude towards ‘love marriage’. But it introduced a condition for a woman marrying of her own free will: the man should belong to the same caste. An additional condition is that the financial status (class) should be more or less equal. Some are ready to give up the ‘class’ condition, but no one abandons the ‘caste’ factor. In rare cases involving the ‘progressives’, the caste condition too will be ignored provided the woman marries someone from the ‘upper caste’. Manu has termed it as anulom vivah, and given his acceptance to it. He puts it thus:
“शूद्रैव भार्या शूद्रस्य सा च स्वा च विश: स्मृते.
ते च स्वा चैव राज्ञश्च ताश्चस्वा चाग्रजन्मन” (section III, verse 3.13)
It says: A Shudra can only marry a Shudra woman; a Vaishya can marry any of the two; a Khastriya can marry a woman from his clan or any woman from the clans below him; while a Brahmin is eligible to marry a woman from any of the four clans.
It is clear that as per all the prescribed conditions, the groom’s caste should not be lower than the bride’s caste, otherwise it will be a “pratilom vivah”, which the Hindu religion/vedas don’t permit.
On sex, the Manusmriti clearly delineates that:
कन्यां भजन्तीमुत्कृष्टं न किंचदपि दापयेत्.
जघन्ये सेवामानां तुंसयतो वावसयेदगृहे. (verse 8.365)
It says: A woman is not liable for punishment if she has sex with a man from the ‘higher castes’. But she is due for harsh punishment for having sex with a man from a ‘lower caste’.
A section of the society is willing to move past all such conditions but in no case should the groom belong to the ‘untouchable’ caste. In a rare instance where a father may agree to his daughter marrying a man from a ‘lower caste’, the groom is likely to be a powerful politician or an official or some big businessman, which will help improve the financial status (class) of the bride’s family. There is, however, a very small section of society today that has managed to rise above all the discriminatory terms and conditions.
These perspectives help us understand the violent reactions to Urmila and Haresh’s marriage. Being an ‘upper caste’ woman, Urmila, as per Hindu tradition, religious scriptures, culture, and the mindset borne out of these, committed ‘two crimes’ by marrying Haresh, a Dalit. First, by falling in love and marrying of her own free will, she displayed her independence and thus challenged the patriarchal control. Second, by marrying a Dalit man, she indulged in ‘pratilom vivah’, which is against Hindu religion. Haresh’s financial status also meant that Urmila’s father couldn’t have accepted him as a son-in-law from a ‘lower caste’ on any ground.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.