Bhawna Yadav’s life, so brutally cut short at such a tender age by her own family, spells out what’s so grievously wrong at the heart of Indian society. Steeped in obscurantism, caste and religious biases, community prejudices and gender bigotry of every possible kind, this is a veritable vortex of collective barbarism that periodically ejects streams of brutality into the marginally better-off mainstream.
While textbook majoritarianism is fanned by political parties across the spectrum, their leaders issue sanctimonious condemnations when the seeds of their carefully sown divisiveness bear fruits. While too many among us prefer to blindly follow self-declared godmen who promise quick money and easy love, cure for childlessness or the hankering for a male heir, we strangle our own daughters if they make any independent life choices.
This systemic misogyny starts when female fetuses are terminated to prevent girls from being born, not only in remote rural corners of the country but in bustling metros. It continues when daughters are denied an education, while boys are sent to schools that teach them books and pens are meant for them only. Young girls are often forced to work in brick kilns, toxic mines, or packed off as domestic servants and sex workers in urban pockets, examples of ‘Shining India.’ Such routine discriminations, however, pale into insignificance when stories such as those of Bhawna Yadav or Nirbhaya come to the fore.
Honour killing, despite its statistically substantiated regularity, has never jolted the Indian heart as much as say ‘love jihad’, a fake meme, blown up to create a storm in a tea cup of still a handful of interreligious marriage. Even though forced conversions occur in some parts of the country, they are by no means as prevalent as was made out to be by some. Yet these very loudmouths are conspicuous in their concerted silence when it comes to honour killing.
21-year-old Bhawna Yadav, a third-year student of Sanskrit Honours at Delhi University, was strangled to death by her own parents and maternal uncle because she dared to marry outside her caste. That Bhawna, a Yadav caste from Rajasthan, had to tie the knot with Abhishek Seth, a 24-year-old programmer at the Cabinet Secretariat and a Punjabi Hindu, in a clandestine fashion, clearly establishes how deep-rooted the biases along caste axes still exist in this country. Whether it’s Jessica Lall, Nirbhava or Bhawna Yadav, a woman’s life means nothing to India.