December 23, 2014

INDIA: A 21-Year-Old Student In India at Delhi University Was Murdered By Her Parents For Marrying Outside Her Caste

The caste system in India is a system of social stratification which historically separated communities into thousands of endogamous hereditary groups called jātis, usually translated into English as "castes". The jātis are thought of as being grouped into four varnas: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. Certain groups, now known as "Dalits", were excluded from the varna system altogether, ostracised as untouchables.

Origins of the Caste System:

How did this system come about?

Early written evidence about the caste system appears in the Vedas, Sanskrit-language texts from as early as 1500 BCE, which form the basis of Hindu scripture. The Rigveda, from c. 1700-1100 BCE, rarely mentions caste distinctions, and indicates that social mobility was common.

The Bhagavad Gita, however, from c. 200 BCE-200 CE, emphasizes the importance of caste. In addition, the "Laws of Manu" or Manusmriti from the same era defines the rights and duties of the four different castes or varnas.

Thus, it seems that the Hindu caste system began to solidify sometime between 1000 and 200 BCE.

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The Wall Street Journal, India
written by Krishna Pokharel
Tuesday November 25, 2014

They wanted to go to Goa after they married. She planned to get a tattoo on her arm of their initials while they were there. He wanted to walk next to her while she wore glass bangles, the sign of a newly-wed Indian bride.

They never made it. On Nov. 16 the body of the woman, 21-year-old Bhawna Yadav, a student at Delhi University, was found and cremated in Rajasthan in western India, according to police.

Her parents, Jagmohan Yadav and Savitri Yadav, were arrested by Delhi police and accused of her murder last week. Tajender Luthra, the police officer overseeing the case, said the couple had confessed to killing their daughter.

Mr. and Mrs. Yadav, who are on remand in a prison in Delhi, could not be reached for comment. Police said it was not clear if they had lawyers. Attempts to reach Mrs. Yadav’s brother Laakhan via calls and messages to his cellphone were unsuccessful.

Police say Ms. Yadav’s parents killed her for stepping out of her Yadav caste to marry Abhishek Seth, a 24-year-old Punjabi.

In some traditional environments in India strict cultural rules regulate who can marry whom – a decision that is usually left to families.

Breaking these rules can bring shame to one’s family, who can be ostracized from their communities as a result. In extreme cases, relatives turn to murder to in the belief that it will restore the honor they perceive they have lost in the eyes of their community. It is not known how many such cases occur each year, Indian police have just started collecting data on them this year, Kiren Rijiju, the minister of state in the Ministry of Home Affairs, told members of Parliament in the lower house on Tuesday. The Ministry of Law and Justice is preparing The Prohibition of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliance Bill to curb the incidents of honor killing, Mr. Rijiju said.

The nature of Ms. Yadav’s death and her background brought her story onto the country’s front pages last week. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Seth set out his version of events leading up to her death.

He first met Ms. Yadav two years ago at her college in Delhi University through a common friend. They exchanged contacts and within a week started dating.

Mr. Seth worked at the president of India’s office as assistant programmer, arranging files and earning 17,000 rupees [$275] a month. Ms. Yadav was an undergraduate student of Sanskrit.

The son of an accountant, Mr. Seth has a house in southwestern Delhi. Ms. Yadav lived with her parents and a younger brother about five kilometers away. Both have middle-class families. Her father is a property dealer.

The couple often met at West Gate Mall in Rajouri Garden in West Delhi. They ate at McDonald’s. “She liked McPuff a lot; she always used to take that,” he says. They also visited the park in Connaught Place in the heart of the capital where they sat and chatted for hours on its green lawn. When asked to describe the way the two got along he says: “I never had to adjust anything with her. She would do as I said and I would do as she said.”

At the start of this year, the pair told their parents they planned to marry. The young man’s mother and father agreed to the union but Ms. Yadav’s parents were set against it, according to Mr. Seth, who recalls his girlfriend’s father telling him: “We won’t give our daughter to a Punjabi family because we are a Yadav family. We won’t do inter-caste marriage.”

Mr. Seth said Mr. Yadav then told him to “stay away” from his daughter.

“I remained silent listening to this because until then we were not sure when we would marry,” Mr. Seth said in an interview Wednesday.

But in June, according to Mr. Seth, Ms. Yadav’s parents started looking for a possible suitor for their daughter and the couple decided to act.

Mr. and Mrs. Yadav soon betrothed their daughter to a man from their caste and fixed Nov. 22 for the formal engagement, Mr. Seth says.

On Nov. 12, without telling their parents, Mr. Seth and Ms. Yadav went to a temple in central Delhi and married in the presence of a dozen friends. Mr. Seth brought his new wife home in the evening. The marriage wasn’t consummated, he says.

Ms. Yadav called her parents and told them, “I have married; you do whatever you want to do,” Mr. Seth recalls her saying.

Her parents soon arrived at his house. Mr. Seth recalls that they said they wanted to organize a public wedding ceremony for the couple so that their family’s honor would be preserved. For this, Mr. Seth says, they needed to take their daughter home.

The bridegroom’s family agreed and the bride was taken away.

On Nov. 14, Mr. Seth says that Ms. Yadav told him her family had begun to pressure her to annul the marriage. “They started telling her, ‘We don’t accept this marriage. You forget about this marriage. You will marry whoever we want. Forget Abhishek,’” Mr. Seth says Ms. Yadav recounted.

“Bhawna got frightened hearing this and she came to me,” Mr. Seth says. The same night, her parents showed up once again at his house, this time with some friends and relatives. The two families talked for hours, according to Mr. Seth, and Ms. Yadav’s parents convinced the couple that they would organize a public wedding ceremony for them if their daughter returned to their home. So she went.

“This was how they led us into a trap,” Mr. Seth says.

On the morning of Sunday Nov. 16, he messaged his wife’s phone. He didn’t get a reply. He called her but she didn’t pick up. Mr. Seth grew anxious. Then around 9 a.m., he got a call from Ms. Yadav’s cousin whom he says broke the news. “He said ‘Bhawna has been cremated,’” Mr. Seth recalls. “What are you saying? Tell me the truth,” he says he replied.

At 11 a.m., Mr. Seth went to the police station.

Mr. Luthra, the Delhi police inspector, said they began investigations after Mr. Seth came to them “complaining that his wife’s parents have taken her back to her house and he is suspecting some foul play.”

Police say they interrogated the parents, didn’t find their answer satisfactory and arrested them on Nov.17. They are hoping to file a formal charge sheet within a month.

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