Honour Bound

Journalist Chander Suta Dogra’s debut book,Manoj and Babli: A Hate Story,is based on a true story of an honour killing in Haryana

Written by Parul | Published: August 6, 2013 12:16:15 am

This is a story of the power of the meek,of people who did not lose their dignity,of their ability to play fair under adverse situations,” said Chander Suta Dogra as she turned the pages of her first book,Manoj and Babli: A Hate Story (Penguin,Rs 299),at a launch function organised by the Chandigarh Literary Society on Friday.

In 2007,Manoj and Babli were brutally murdered for falling in love,eloping and marrying though they belonged to the same caste. Their bodies were thrown into a canal,and the crime had the approval of the khap of their village Karora in the Kaithal district of Haryana. Flexing muscle and money,Babli’s family “manipulated” the police and did not allow investigations to reach any logical conclusion. Ostracised,Manoj’s family was even denied an asthi kalash,with no one attending the funeral and the local priest refusing to perform a puja.

The khap panchayats have allegedly ordered many “honour killings” and Haryana has become synonymous with these crimes,with the police being seen as mere spectators. Except in this case. Manoj’s widowed mother Chandrapati and his sister Seema stood up to the system and decided to seek justice for the couple,regardless of threats and dangers,and were supported by women activists and the local media.

As a journalist,Dogra has extensively covered Haryana,including the Manoj-Babli case,and was approached by Penguin Books India to write a book on it. “The first time I encountered an honour killing was in 2004,in a village near Meham in Haryana. A girl had been killed by her father and brothers for eloping with a boy from a neighbouring village. When I went to her house,I found that the only person grieving for the girl was her mother,” recalls Dogra,who points out that women are often silent spectators in these cases,their emotions,dilemmas and feelings are never addressed.

A blend of fact and fiction,with real stories,court recordings,FIRs and video recordings,personal interviews with the families of Manoj and Babli,the hostility notwithstanding,has made the narrative both descriptive and chilling and took Dogra three years to complete. With the smallest details of the case presented in the book,it’s left to the readers to draw conclusions,as the landmark judgment of death sentence for the culprits gives the fight an honourable conclusion.

Dogra writes of hope and progress. In the villages of Haryana,literacy and awareness give the youth a new perspective. “The case is an expose of the face-off between those who abide by the law and the upholders of archaic traditions that clash with it,”

says Dogra.

An Afghan Odyssey

TRUE representations of a country are often beyond what is portrayed in the mainstream media. And for Afghanistan,a country that has struggled to keep up with the rest of the world while trying to cope with its own problems,these come in the form of a new wave of documentary and short films. A one-day event will showcase some of these films at Alliance Francaise de Bombay on August 23.

With films ranging from documentaries to short fiction and experimental variety,the show,titled “Kabul Closeup”,has been curated by Mumbai-based journalist and filmmaker Taran Khan,who has worked closely with Afghan media professionals and filmmakers in Kabul since 2006. Produced by a young breed of Afghani filmmakers — most of who have grown up outside their country — the films help channelise the contemporary cinematic voice of the country. The films deal with different subjects,as opposed to highlighting common topics such as good versus evil and conflict versus hope. Some of the films that are going to be screened are Angels of the Earth,a short fiction film about a dream of two children; Little Afghanistan,a documentary film about urbanisation; and Swap,a short film about a family that prepares to leave Afghanistan following the impending 2014 withdrawal of NATO troops in the country.


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