A Crime a Community Would Prefer to Ignore

“There is this very distinctive and self-incriminating silence within communities that have a history of ‘honour’ killings,” he says. “The so-called community leaders, the influential religious groups and the local language newspapers remain deafeningly silent when these killings happen. But that silence makes them just as guilty as the people who kill in the name of honour.” [link]

21killing1_279355s.jpgStatements like the one above, has made Jagdeesh Singh (pictured) a controversial figure within the suburbs of west London -home to many of Britain’s 400,000-plus Sikhs. While many young Sikhs consider Jagdeesh a role-model for the way he stands up and speaks against parochial traditions, many older and more conservative members of the community believe he is a troublemaker “who needlessly provokes controversy by shining an unwelcome spotlight on things that should not be aired in public”.

Eleven years ago, on 15 December 1998, Surjit Athwal disappeared during a holiday in the Indian Punjab with her in-laws. The 27-year-old customs officer at Heathrow had been desperately unhappy in her 10-year marriage to her husband Sukdave and had found love in the arms of another man.After years of abuse, she finally plucked up enough courage to seek a divorce but was persuaded by her domineering mother-in-law Bachan to travel to the Punjab for a family wedding in what she thought would be a final act of reconciliation. Instead, she was lured to her death. It took Jagdeesh Singh years to persuade the police to investigate his sister’s disappearance properly, and many more years of painstaking detective work to encourage one of the Athwal family members to testify. Finally, nine years after Surjit disappeared, Sukdave and Bachan Athwal were found guilty of ordering her death at a family council meeting. [link]

So where does the controversy lie? Many believe Jagdeesh is bringing unwanted attention to an issue which should not be discussed in public. He states that “the communities that suffer from ‘honour’ killings don’t want to be drawn into a debate about a type of murder they would far rather ignore,” he says. “But they need to start having that debate; because we’re not going to win this fight without them.”

In an attempt to address these cases appropriately, police offers are being trained to identify red flags. While at one time they would dismiss calls for help from women as “hysterical paranoia” accusations of honor violence are now prioritized. However, many believe there is still a missing element in the fight against honor killings.

“The vast majority of people in my community abhor ‘honour’ killings but that doesn’t mean they are willing to speak out against it,” says Mr Singh. When his sister disappeared, the local gurudwaras (Sikh temples) refused to allow the police to put up missing posters or make appeals to their congregations calling for anyone with information to come forward.

While our community mayclaim to “abhor” this type of violence against women, it is clear that we have no real way of identifying how common these cases are. We can barely have conversations about domestic violence or alcohol abuse – so i can just imagine how little we know about women who are victims of honor killings. While Jagdeesh Singh is fighting in memory of his sister, Surjit, the hope is that he will raise enough awareness so that similar acts like this don’t continue to occur.


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14 Responses to “A Crime a Community Would Prefer to Ignore”

  1. Jesse says:

    This is only one of the huge problems the 'community' has to face. Almost all violence inflicted by Sikhs is either ignored or passed off as defense of some sort or even called bravery. Babies, women, and people of other faiths are all fair game to Sikh men. Raj Karega Khalsa sounds frightening.

  2. Jesse says:

    This is only one of the huge problems the 'community' has to face. Almost all violence inflicted by Sikhs is either ignored or passed off as defense of some sort or even called bravery. Babies, women, and people of other faiths are all fair game to Sikh men. Raj Karega Khalsa sounds frightening.

  3. ItsMe says:

    Lets not white wash the entire community or even a gender in this all. The community as a whole contributes to these types of unconscionable acts of violence or abuse even though at times males are the perpetrators. The problem is that the status quo is just as much our fault as our parents fault, and very few people in our community myself included are willing to put in the time and effort to be active in our community. Its like when one volunteers so their resume or college app looks good its a must a need for oneself, but when it comes to sacrificing time beyond ourselves we don't have it in us.

    If your looking to the old guard to create change that's just projecting accountability and blame. As individuals we can make a difference and bring these types events to the families attention and question them get their thoughts and see if it even exists in our homes or families. If your aren't able to then look outside your home to your friends to talk to and then get involved if possible. Where and how to get involved is your decision.

    Realistically if you ever tried to get involved into another families business or air their dirty laundry it may not bode well for you in the larger community. Sad fact is no good dead goes unpunished especially if you are trying to change the status quo. Start when your immediate relationship and connections especially yourself and then trying to build on that. Its easier with support to address such taboo issues.

    Bhul Chuk Maaf (my bad on any spelling or grammatical errors) :)

  4. ItsMe says:

    Lets not white wash the entire community or even a gender in this all. The community as a whole contributes to these types of unconscionable acts of violence or abuse even though at times males are the perpetrators. The problem is that the status quo is just as much our fault as our parents fault, and very few people in our community myself included are willing to put in the time and effort to be active in our community. Its like when one volunteers so their resume or college app looks good its a must a need for oneself, but when it comes to sacrificing time beyond ourselves we don't have it in us.

    If your looking to the old guard to create change that's just projecting accountability and blame. As individuals we can make a difference and bring these types events to the families attention and question them get their thoughts and see if it even exists in our homes or families. If your aren't able to then look outside your home to your friends to talk to and then get involved if possible. Where and how to get involved is your decision.

    Realistically if you ever tried to get involved into another families business or air their dirty laundry it may not bode well for you in the larger community. Sad fact is no good dead goes unpunished especially if you are trying to change the status quo. Start when your immediate relationship and connections especially yourself and then trying to build on that. Its easier with support to address such taboo issues.

    Bhul Chuk Maaf (my bad on any spelling or grammatical errors) :)

  5. Rajinder Singh says:

    Most of these problems come in phases:

    Phase 1 : Light fires, fan flames of trouble – Done by irresponsible, mischievous, evil, sinister, clever dark hearts, entertainment seekers, including women themselves.

    Phase 2: A Full blown inferno created, victims and casualties generated, call in “Firefighters”. The majority chills out.

    There are so many “fires” – holiday brides, domestic violence, forced marriages, honor killings, victims from other troubles (1984 widows and orphans,etc), the fire brigade is spread out. Some fires might even be natural.

    At the moment there are more troublemakers and fewer firefighters. Since prevention is better than cure, we also need to focus on prevention. Can we treat daughters of others as our own daughters/sisters ?

    Is it fair that so many fires are lit by our own people at these unholy, social get-togethers ?

    Believe that by and large people are good, but by not stopping early sparks when detected, they are being irresponsible.

    ******
    Standard Disclaimers apply. (lol)

  6. Rajinder Singh says:

    Most of these problems come in phases:

    Phase 1 : Light fires, fan flames of trouble – Done by irresponsible, mischievous, evil, sinister, clever dark hearts, entertainment seekers, including women themselves.

    Phase 2: A Full blown inferno created, victims and casualties generated, call in “Firefighters”. The majority chills out.

    There are so many “fires” – holiday brides, domestic violence, forced marriages, honor killings, victims from other troubles (1984 widows and orphans,etc), the fire brigade is spread out. Some fires might even be natural.

    At the moment there are more troublemakers and fewer firefighters. Since prevention is better than cure, we also need to focus on prevention. Can we treat daughters of others as our own daughters/sisters ?

    Is it fair that so many fires are lit by our own people at these unholy, social get-togethers ?

    Believe that by and large people are good, but by not stopping early sparks when detected, they are being irresponsible.

    ******
    Standard Disclaimers apply. (lol)

  7. the pencil and the s says:

    Sundari while you try to belittle Sikhs don’t forget to mention the most famous honor killing, the murder of Princess Diane and Dodi Fayed. Their driver Henri Paul was held accountable for driving drunk with a 21% concentration of carbon dioxide in his blood work. It’s hard to drive let alone stay alive with that much CO2 in your system (the same night at the hospital a suicide victim was brought in with carbon poisoning). And don’t forget Henry 8th murdered and denigrated a number of queens and separated from the Catholic church (for not allowing him to divorce), forcing everyone in england to change their religion. Those people that didn’t were burned alive and murdered mercilessly by the hundreds and thousands. And those that haven’t changed their religion still suffer today (Irish Catholics).

  8. the pencil and the stick says:

    Sundari while you try to belittle Sikhs dont forget to mention the most famous honor killing, the murder of Princess Diane and Dodi Fayed. Their driver Henri Paul was held accountable for driving drunk with a 21% concentration of carbon dioxide in his blood work. Its hard to drive let alone stay alive with that much CO2 in your system (the same night at the hospital a suicide victim was brought in with carbon poisoning). And dont forget Henry 8th murdered and denigrated a number of queens and separated from the Catholic church (for not allowing him to divorce), forcing everyone in england to change their religion. Those people that didnt were burned alive and murdered mercilessly by the hundreds and thousands. And those that havent changed their religion still suffer today (Irish Catholics).

  9. Komal Johl says:

    Being a teenage girl and learning of these honor killings is just plain frightening. These types of stories are indicitive of teenage sikh behavior today, why nobody wants to go to india and blindly trust their family as is asked of them. Marriage is frightening at any age but even more so to the mind that realizes you could be trapped in India and a Loveless marriage. As for those that do community service, i would love to volunteer at my local gurdawara if such resources were available. Look at the Churches around us that do so much for those whom it serves. Our Gurdwara's are sadly lacking in service opportunites other than within serving at the langar hall

  10. Komal Johl says:

    Being a teenage girl and learning of these honor killings is just plain frightening. These types of stories are indicitive of teenage sikh behavior today, why nobody wants to go to india and blindly trust their family as is asked of them. Marriage is frightening at any age but even more so to the mind that realizes you could be trapped in India and a Loveless marriage. As for those that do community service, i would love to volunteer at my local gurdawara if such resources were available. Look at the Churches around us that do so much for those whom it serves. Our Gurdwara's are sadly lacking in service opportunites other than within serving at the langar hall

  11. sat says:

    Komal Johl's comments offer the real reason why this whole approach is flawed. Dubbing every incident of domestic homicide as an hounour killing… these so called activists and families might get publicity and justice..but it does irreparable damage to the whole community. If a white guy kills his wife cuz shez seeing another man or just wants to divorce him for being abusive, why is that not a white community or christian problem or better yet an honour killing. Does every incident of domestic abuse, gang violence etc. has to be attributed to your own culture think about it folks you're being had…there is nothing wrong with your culture or religion….if this was the yard stick by which we were measured then White culture and christianity are the most frightening. A crime is a crime.

  12. sat says:

    Komal Johl's comments offer the real reason why this whole approach is flawed. Dubbing every incident of domestic homicide as an hounour killing… these so called activists and families might get publicity and justice..but it does irreparable damage to the whole community. If a white guy kills his wife cuz shez seeing another man or just wants to divorce him for being abusive, why is that not a white community or christian problem or better yet an honour killing. Does every incident of domestic abuse, gang violence etc. has to be attributed to your own culture think about it folks you're being had…there is nothing wrong with your culture or religion….if this was the yard stick by which we were measured then White culture and christianity are the most frightening. A crime is a crime.