Frequent episodes of ‘honour killings’ in certain communities, interwoven with and strengthened by the traditional local beliefs, continue unabated in this part of the Indian peninsula.

Such matrimonial alliances between consenting adults are seen to have ' brought dishonour to the family'; the couples having defied time-honoured traditions and therefore must flee for their lives lest they become victims of ‘honour killing’ committed by the kith or kin.

Some of the couples on the run were either caught unawares or hounded out and killed by their families who were determined to restore honour to the clan.

The civil society at large has to deal with the same giving up an ostrich like mentality. We cannot brush these 'shameless brutal murders' by euphemistically calling them by something honourable as ‘Honour Killings’.

Incidentally we seem to have perfected the art of using euphemism for camouflaging ugly truths. The apparent justification for such a denial of the stark reality is perhaps the mistaken notion that somehow the gigantic monstrosity of the humungous problem may also be reduced by perceiving the same ‘through a jaundiced eye’/denying its very existence and thereby just wishing it away.

The civic authorities in the national capital first mentioned the erstwhile slums as JJ colonies (Jhuggi-Jhopri colonies) and over the years now conveniently expand the acronym JJ as Janata Jivan colonies.

Another euphemism used to hide the blatant denial of socio-economic justice and outright violation of the basic human right of existence is the usage of the word ‘cold’.

Print and electronic media come out with figures of people having died because of cold in the Indian winters. The fact which surprises all the citizens in western nations is how one can die because of cold when the minimum ambient temperature is just between 40 C to 60 C whereas life thrives so well with sub zero temperatures for fortnights and months together with no deaths because of ‘cold’ or ‘cold wave’ in that part of the world.

The reason is obvious - we use ‘cold’ as a euphemism for extreme poverty. We are shy of even considering ourselves a poor nation and are more than eager to use a euphemism like ‘developing country’ with even overzealously claiming to be called a ‘developed nation’ now that we are a nuclear ‘super power’ with a robust and ever-expanding economy in continuum with the globalized endeavours.

Perhaps it is a convenient denial of the absolute truth that we are a poor nation and we all have to do a lot for the major portion of our humankind living in abject poverty. I think it is high time we start calling a spade a spade. Deliberate masquerading of a reality by any term/designation will be of no help in solving the myriad inter-woven socio economic problems affecting the huge populations.

A blatant inhuman murder of a bride is craftily worded as ‘dowry death’ even during the legal interactions. The fourth state – the media – which has the onus of being an ombudsman also – prefers that terminology to ‘dowry murders’ on the pretext of finding it improper to call the perpetuators of the crime -the husband and the in- laws (read outlaws) -as murderers in a society with patriarchal hegemony where the existence or otherwise (or even elimination) of the ‘fair’ sex is seemingly a non – issue.

The killings of young people by their relatives are not limited to the backward rural societies of India. In June, a Belgium-based expatriate /Non-Resident Indian was arrested for allegedly murdering his 17-year-old stepdaughter, whom he had accused of having an affair with a lower-caste Indian youth in Belgium.

The step-father was suspected of poisoning the young girl during their stay in a north-western Indian city. "He had hurriedly brought his daughter to the city after knowing about her relationship in Belgium. When she died, her father tried to cover up his action and hurried the cremation, which was perceived to be ‘quite mysterious’ by a senior police official.

Appeler un chat un chat and deal with the same in the desired manner.

We must not allow abhorrent practices like such ‘‘shameless brutal murders (so called honour killings)” to continue in the largest democracy of the world.

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Comment by Jean-Louis Lamboray on October 20, 2010 at 11:14pm
Yes Dr Gopal,

the only way to happiness is to look at our suffering as it is. Using euphemisms does not get us where we need to be.



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