Raising South Asian Voices

Cynthia Dettman:  Author

Why I want to write about prosecution of “honor killings” in India

I was horrified during my 2012 trip to India to learn that some Indian parents will kill their own children if they marry a lower-caste person, and that these killings take place in modern Tamilnadu, one of the more progressive and educated states in India.  These killings are infrequent but effective- the media publicizes them, for good reason, but surely the threat of death is strong enough to inhibit young Indians from falling in love at all, and certainly from falling in love with someone outside their caste (or religion).

Watch this chilling documentary about the 2016 murder of a young Dalit (low-caste) boy and attempted murder of his higher caste wife-  by her own family.  The murder was committed in broad daylight and captured on CCTV.  India’s caste system is still alive and well, and kept in place by social prohibitions against inter-caste marriage.  The survivor of this event, Kausalya, has become an activist, living under police protection, working to bring awareness to the violence of the caste system.  Her father and several accomplices have been convicted and sentenced to death- her mother and uncle were set free.  Kausalya is appealing the release of her mother.  I hope I can contribute in some small way to Kausalya’s work by writing a novel that demonstrates the powerful forces that act against women’s freedom and that reinforce the cruelties of the caste system.

BE WARNED:   the killing itself is shown (from CCTV) and you will see blood and violence.  But the documentary focuses mostly on Kausalya and her advocates from the non-profit group EVIDENCE as they await the court’s rulings and continue to push against caste violence.

 Kausalya and Shankar

I hope to interview Kausalya when next I return to India.

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What a strong young woman. Kausalya has won my heart. She is brave and courageous in daring to refute the wishes of her family. She is wise beyond her years in declaring her aversion for Caste and all that it represents in the Indian culture. Still, I feel deeply for her future. Though her peers will support her, it seems her mother and uncle and brother and perhaps other family members are so entrenched in tradition that it will be difficult if not impossible for any of them to accept reconciliation. Kausalya is doomed to be outcaste…. but she is still a heroine in my eyes.

Yes, Kausalya won my heart, and that’s one of the reasons I’m writing this story. I think I’ll have to dedicate it to her and to Evidence, the nonprofit who helped her. Cynthia

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