This is the true story of the honour killing of Manoj and Babli and its aftermath. In this painstakingly researched book, Chander Suta Dogra recreates how the couple eloped, breaking the taboo of same-caste marriage, and was seized and brutalized by the girl's people, with their bodies being eventually dumped into a canal. Tacitly approving the deed, the village people did not attend the funeral; the tardiness of the local police and other agencies bordered on acquiescence. It was left to Manoj's mother, Chandrapati, and sister Seema to fight for justice. The book powerfully describes how, with the support of the media and women activists, they stood up to intimidation, social ostracism and the fury of the khaps or Jat councils across North India, not just Haryana, when the five accused were sentenced to death in a landmark judgement. The family still has police protection. Chilling and unputdownable, Manoj and Babli is a brilliant exposé of the face-off between those who abide by the law and the upholders of archaic traditions that clash with it. Author and senior journalist Chander Suta Dogra joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on her book 'Manoj and Babli: A Hate Story'.
Q. More than the judiciary is it not the need of the Law makers to put their heads to prevent such honour killing and lead to society for a better civilised way of living? Asked by: sundar1950in
A. You are right Sundar. In fact when the killers of Manoj and Babli were sentenced to death by a court in Haryana, the shock waves generated ,compelled the then law minister to announce that the government would bring in a separate law to deal with honour killings. Sadly, the proposed law fell by the wayside because it was scuttled by the state governments of some states where this practice is prevalent! I have explored this aspect in the afterword of my book. The judiciary was forced to step in as the law makers failed to do their jobs.
Q. Your putting down in writing the story is a commercial venture. Will you contribute a share of the profits, if any, to an NGO which will help the likes of Manoj and Babli? Asked by: sundar1950in
A. I wouldn't call it a commercial venture at all, because the purpose of doing the book was to document and expose the myths that surround this modern day occurrence of what is believed to be a medieval practice. But if the book does generate some money, I will be happy to contribute all the profits. Will welcome suggestions from you on this. Do you know of any NGO working in this field?
Q. While on the subject you were engrossed, did you at any time feel that the elders pressures on the youngsters, asking them not to cross the boundaries as a sound advice? Asked by: sundar1950in
A. This has to be weighed against what the law of our land upholds. When the law says that any two adults can decide who they wish to marry, anyone who murders them for doing so has to be seen as law breakers. Of course social norms have a place in every society, but in this case I discovered that the social norms which are quoted to kill for honour are quite specious. In that many other extraneous factors come into play, such as a patriarchy, suppressing emancipation of girls and inheritance issues.
Q. Divya and Elavarasan down south are the Manoj and Babli. Law makers from political outfits have brought in turmoil to achieve their one up manship. Where is the society moving to? Asked by: sundar1950in
A. The society that Manoj and Babli lived and died in, is in a state of transition. It is a clash of old social mores and compulsions and liberties of modern living. The sooner society leaders realise this, the better it will be for the younger generation, who are caught in this cleft.
Q. Who/what inspired you to write this book? Asked by: Malvey
A. As a journalist covering North India for many years, I had been reporting on honour killings as part of my job. This, I felt was a story waiting to be examined closely and the practice of honour killing shown up through it, for what it actually is in present times. Traditional societies where such incidents happen have justified the practice as a means to uphold their ancient traditions that they claim are based on healthy biological practices designed to maintain purity of race. In practice, it has ended up being just a way to perpetuate patriarchy and deny inheritance rights to girls.
Q. I want to be a writer. Please share some writing tricks. Asked by: Pawan
A. There are no tricks. The only way I know, is to put pen to paper, or fingers on the keyboard (whatever suits you) and make a beginning.
Q. What will be your advice to young couples who are in similar situation as Manoj and Babli were? Asked by: fatima
A. Manoj and Babli, like most such young couples were not very well informed about the law and relied on half baked advice from well meaning but equally misinformed friends. I also feel that they were very young just 21 and 19 years of age, who according to our laws were old enough to choose their marriage partners, but given a few more years might have had a re-think. They knew that their action was punishable by death. They made one mistake of going back to the district for a day and that was their doom. The ruse of getting a runaway couple to appear in a local court to answer charges of kidnapping on the boy (Manoj in this case) is commonly employed by the relatives of the girl to bring the couple within reach. A sound knowledge of the law, rules and regulations is necessary before any young couple attempts anything similar.
Q. How to change the mindset of people? Or should the young couple think twice about the consequences? Asked by: fatima
A. It is not easy to change the mindset of traditional societies overnight. The inevitable march of education, development and liberal attitudes will certainly change old social mores, but until that happens, more and more couples like Manoj and Babli will have to die at the altar of social traditions. Whether couples should think twice about consequences, is a given, because anyone contemplating such a step will ordinarily give it a serious thought. But often in such cases the decision is not based on reason and forethought but impulsive, spur of the moment decisions.