Right to kill ‘My’ child

Modern Mythmaking 65 Comments

Published in Devlok, Sunday Midday,  June 27, 2010


Suddenly the newspapers are filled with reports of parents wanting to kill their children. They are being hacked, smothered, even electrocuted. The reason: honor. If a child marries outside the caste, it is dishonor; kill them. If children marry outside the religion, it is dishonor; kill them. If children marry outside the class, it is dishonor; kill them. If children marry inside the gotra, it is dishonor; kill them. If children marry outside the class, it is dishonor; kill them. If the children turn out to be homosexual, it is a dishonor; kill them. And if the government intervenes, demand the banning of marriage across gotra, class, caste, religion, and of course, ban homosexuality.

Not every one is so blatant. ‘Killing’ can be subtle: break all ties with the children, disinherit them, ignore them, harass them, abuse them and encourage others to abuse them. This has been happening forever. It seems to have peaked in recent times, for suddenly, thanks to the liberalization policy, the world has opened up. The television brings home tales of possibilities. Development brings home the resources to break free. Suddenly, children can make choices! And that bothers parents.

In our mythology, we celebrate the obedient child who sacrifices for the joy of the parents – Ram who willingly goes to the forest when his father asks him to, Puru who willingly suffers the old age of his father, Bhisma who sacrifices conjugal life so that his father can remarry, Sita and Amba who never go back to their father’s house when faced with misfortune. This is very unlike Greek stories where sons kill their fathers and uncles. Zeus kills his father Cronos, Cronus kills his father Uranus, Jason kills his uncle Pelias, Oedipus kills his father Lauis. So when we are talking about Westernization, what we are basically saying is the dominant narrative of our culture is changing: “Children are not submitting to the father. The father is being expected to submit to the child.” And we don’t like it.

And yet, in Indian culture, we have the story of a son who kills a father-figure. Krishna kills his maternal uncle, Kamsa, and the event is celebrated. Krishna moves out of his foster father, Nanda’s house, and Nanda does not berate him for it. Though like Ram, Krishna is an avatar of Vishnu, he behaves very differently, breaking rules, and still being celebrated. For what was appropriate for Ram is not appropriate for Krishna; both belong to different ages or yugas, each one faces a different context and challenge, and responds accordingly.

The issue is not about obedience or tradition. The problem is that for the ‘honor-killing’ parents, children are property. They want their property to behave as they want them to behave. They don’t want bulls that wander freely. They want to castrate the bulls who, as oxen, will be mild, docile, obedient, willing to bear the burden of the family cart. The relationship here is not about love, but the very opposite – power. Love is to allow children to grow up, be independent, take their decisions and be responsible for the consequences. Power is about control, dependence, domination, and the demand for obedience and subservience. Killer parents, and their supporters, may masquerade this as tradition, honor, culture, even love – but they are fooling no one.


  • Gaurav

    You say “Love is to allow children to grow up, be independent, take their decisions and be responsible for the consequences.”. I disagree with this blanket ‘politically’ correct statement. LOVE is to painstakingly persuade, guide and help the children to take the right path in the interest of lasting happiness and harmony. Relationship with opposite sex is to be taken seriously. Marriage is the most important event in life after having taken birth. Please guide all of us. There is no inherent conflict between children and parents. We have been hurt enough by conflict seeking, creating and sustaining “idealogies”. We need ideals of harmony, understanding and vision of the whole in both space and time.

    • Devdutt

      The assumption here is that parents KNOW the right path

      • Madan

        and your assumption is children know the right path

        • Sandeep

          I don’t see Devdutt making an assumption that children know the right path.

          What is a right path after all? Who decides what is right. All with rights comes responsibilities. Are people who feel so righteous and making ” right” decisions for their children are bearing the consequences of their decisions or its the children who are bearing the consequences?

          As a parent if you are not ready to accept the consequences of the decisions you are making on your children’s behalf then you have know right to make it in first place. (now matter how much you think its a “right” decision)

      • Gaurav

        Parents who are aware of their duties bound to know better than the children. The key word is better. The notion of independence of children or any entity for that matter is very dubious. We are all interdependent FOR SURE. No amount of politically correct arguments can change this.

        • Prabal

          I would completely agree with “Love is to allow children to grow up, be independent, take their decisions and be responsible for the consequences.”

          Love can not be result oriented. When it is said that Love is to ‘persuade one to take the right path’ it becomes result oriented and that is not love, but a wish fulfilment. there is a sense of power there.

  • Sriharsha

    As they say , No action is right or wrong, what matters is the circumstances.Who decides what is correct? If u survive and prosper, then your action is correct otherwise it is wrong. We follow the theory ” Guilty until proved innocent”.

    • Hari Krishna Gupta

      veru true I agree with you it is the circumstances that forces us to take those decision which may in turn later some times we had to repay .


      hari Krishna Gupta

  • heena

    we love oue parents but v disagree wit their views.wat is pathbreaking n innovative in our eyes turn out to be absurd in their perspective.there is so mch dilemma about whether to go our way or save our image in our parents mind.this creates a wrong impression that chilren of young generation dishonour their parents.thats absolutely can v bridge this gap?

    • Ridhi Sundar

      “I love my parents but I don’t agree/like/obey my parents.” Extremely contradictory statement. When love is there there lies believe and you simply obey and pleasantly accept their views. When you are not able to digest your parents decision know for sure your love towords your parents has been hampered.

      Yes only when your parents decision is against life and growth then you can talk to your parents. If you are correct definitely you can convince your parents. Only one case when it is against your parent I mean suppose your father wants to sacrifice him for you in that case you can disobey your parent and go ahead.


    • Vijay

      I am 33 years old now and my views about life is totally different than they were when I was 21. This change is by experiencing the life. I also respect the views of my parents more now. We may argue about few things and always able to come to a conclusion than when I was 21 or earlier.
      Respect your parents knowledge of life. They have seen more sun sets. Many of us might be earning more than our parents. It does not mean we are better. It just means we are in a better time. Also our parents contributed for this life.

  • Harry Sahi

    Who talk of honor which is actually ego. We talk about equality but do not let adult “children” marry as per their choice.
    The world has opened up we need to open our minds to newer futures and be ready for the future.
    Nobody succeeded by looking back only forward

    • Suhdish

      This is my first comment here on the burning subject. Well when we go out to look for a suitable groom for our daughter / sister first we say I am looking for a well settled guy equal to our social status. This is valid for every parent cutting across the caste and communities. If the boy is earning his bread and butter, well enough to support a family, he is accpted.
      If a girl marries a Millionaire, with in or outside the community, the decision is always respected. if she marries her driver within the community, I am afraid no one will accept her decision.
      Pretty Zinta, after breakup, marries here driver – a very nice guy- do you think are we going to appreciate her decision.Its her life she can do whatever she wants, who the hell we are to say anyhting about her life. but we always have a weired smile when we read bout her life.
      Mr. Tharoor is married 3rd time, no question on community. No body is saying anything. Well this is his life. he cam marry her house maid. No question.

      But I would say marriage is always about a responsibility.
      Take the case of Ex Deputy CM of Haryana. Where is the girl and the boy. God knows…Were they wrong in their decisions, both adult and responsible citizens?
      Lets ponder over it.

      And always place youself in the parents shoes whose son or daughter gets married outside the community above all without their consent.
      jab baat apnay pay aatee hai tub baat samagh may aatee hai…
      Every politicians, decision makers, denounce dynastical rule, but right from Gandhi, Pawar, Abdulla, Mufti, Sangma, Karunanidhi, Chautala, Lalu, Rane – the list is endless….Everyone doing the same thing shamelessly.

  • Ladu Kishore Dash

    No one is correct in this context neither the parents nor the child ,Parents thinks they are the creator of their children so they can do whatever they want, But in reality the child comes to the world with the help of their parents so parents are just medium not the creator.

    Why child want to get married against their parents?? If you will ask them the simple question, their answer will be like that… I can’t live without him/her , He/she is the world for me..I am fall in love with him/her etc. There is lots of confusion between Kama and Love.

    As per Hindu Mythology Sri Krishna had 16,108 wives but I have never seen any temple where any of them being worshiped with Sri Krishna. Every where Radha and Krishna is being worshiped.

    Thanks & Regards
    Ladu Kishore Dash

    • Devdutt

      FYI – Radha is worshiped with Krishna only in Gangetic plains ….not in West or South

      • aarthi raghavan

        yes,u r absolutely right.radha is worshipped with krishna only in gangetic plains.whereas in south and west krishna is worshipped with rukmini and satyabhama.krishna is said to have married only rukmini and satyabhama and not radha

    • Jai Sri Radhe!

      And Radha was never married to Krishna. She was married to Abhimanyu/Ayan Ghosh, and had an extra-marital affair with Krishna!

      The reason they are worshipped as the Divine Couple is because their love symbolizes crossing all rules and boundaries of society – risking everything for the sake of their love.

      • Sri

        I heard Dev Dutt in one of his youtube videos mocking at people that miss the point about mythological stories/ holy books etc..I 200000% agree with him. People take it literally.

        Radha was never married to Krishna says one and the other says no she was. Seriously ?! Who knows and who cares?? This to me sounds very similar to 2 people arguing over Harry Potter characters, 2000 years from now.

      • Jyothi

        Krishna left Brindavan when he was 11 years old never to return, to the dismay of the gopikas. So all the pranks and leelas attributed to Krishan are done by a divine child of ages 0 to 11. Radha is said to have come to Gokul or Brindavan, not sure, when she was fifteen and married someone there. So when Radha first met Sri Krishna she was fifteen and Krishna was between 0 and 11. What sort of relationship would a 15 year-old girl today have with a child 0 to 11, think about it for a moment – big sister? something like that?
        Besides the gopikas are said to have been yogies in their previous birth who had sought God through knowledge, but wanted to experience him throuh devotion. So in this birth as gopikas they enjoy the ras (juice) of bhakti (devotion). The gopikas knew that Krishna was God and of them all, Radha’s devotion surpassed the rest. The idol of Radha-Krishna is to celebrate devotion (love for God) where the devotee becomes God and God becomes the devotee – indistinguishable.

        • Jyothi

          It was a poet/saint in the recent past, probably within 200 to 300 years, and probably called Haridas, who painted Radha/Krishna with this version – his own romanticized version. Sadly so many Indians think this is true and are in confusion.

        • Sri

          and …your version is right ?! Somehow I prefer facts to BS

        • Jyothi

          The story of Sri Krishna is found in the Srimad Bhagvatam. That would be the authentic version.

  • My son is Married to Philippine Girl 18 years now .People ask me “Is she of your caste ?” My reply to them is yes . Yes she is Human being.

    • Ladu Kishore Dash

      Nice thinking Savita Mam,Caste is not god’s creation it’s man made.In front of god we are all one caste.

      • Sri

        In front of God we

        When are people going to understand that there is no God without We and We are the God and We are the Devil?


        • Ladu Kishore Dash

          When people will get concrete proofs that the universe,life on planets are all man made then they will stop writing “in front of god”.


          Isaac Newton’s theory says God must have been involved in creation because our solar system couldn’t have come out of chaos simply through nature.

          Recently British physicist and mathematician Stephen Hawking says no, arguing in his new book that there need not be a God behind the creation of the universe, which is yet to prove.


        • Sri

          God is man’s smartest creation not the other way around!!

  • Sarika

    so many discussions , why :-) , we all know what is right , what is wrong..People/Society supporting/forcing killing their own children , they know they will loose their power of control and dominance .. Its all about that..NOT love and growing up to be an independent being..

  • Let me tell you that although I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now, this is my first comment. I admire your work and it has helped me understand a great deal in how to implement mythological lessons into practical life.

    My comment is regarding this blog post in which you’ve mentioned marrying outside the Gotra.

    Actually, the killings are happening because they’re marrying within the Gotra, as a Sagotra is considered to be a sibling. One cannot marry one’s sibling.

    Just wanted to point that out.

    Love your blogs and speeches. Keep ’em coming.

    • Jai Sri Radhe!

      But they are not siblings and same gotra does not mean sibling or even cousins.

      This “same gotra” rule may have served some purpose thousands of years ago but it no longer does.

      Time for those people to move on and embrace the 21st Century where science and DNA tests can confirm if you are “siblings” or not.

      • aarthi raghavan

        sagotra is to be respected even in the 21st century as people of the same gotra had separated centuries,the genetic qualities may differ.i have seen 2 people of my same is a kannadika and the other is an u can’t expect that they’ll be of the same caste or would speak the same language.

        • Jai Sri Radhe!

          Yeah so… why this silly rule against marrying with the same gotra? It makes no sense.

  • Radhanaa

    Lets face it..we are an impatient and intolerant set of people in any context..we have so many layers of support – caste, class, religion, language, honor hide behind..but bare it all, we are almost inhuman, ready to condemn and punish…we have burdened ourselves too much over the generations and it shows up everywhere…either we loosen up or tighten up further so as to break and distintegrate as a society …which one will happen sooner i wonder..

  • Yps

    I loved this article. My brother (though has not got married with same gotra female or something :)) has a mind of his own and his ways and means are at times difficult for my parents to handle. They berate him at times and slump their shoulders at other times trying to come to terms with his behavior pattern. It is sometimes difficult for our parents’ generation to think beyond a particular template. The off-template behavior shakes their comfort level and forces them to adapt and change which is difficult. Some people are flexible with such change others react violently.

  • Pravin

    Khap panchayats and rights over parents over children.

    Do we really know the TRUTH ?

    Is Taliban Really Taliban the way we think ?

    It’s useless to relate “Khap panchayats” and “rights to kill children”

    It’s media propaganda. My humble request.. do meet Khap panchayats then take decision.

    Do not generalize things, each Individual as his/her own story.

    Everyone is bound by desire and/or destiny.

    • Ladu Kishore Dash

      Dear Pravin media’s are not always wrong, If you have doubt then just search “Khap panchayats” on google you will find lots of detail.

      Any ways… There’s no smoke without fire.

      • Pravin

        Let me allow myself to go extreme.

        Yes. Media is biased. I did not say wrong. Did I ? ;)

        Google is NOT life.

        Google search is just a tip of iceberg(Media).

  • Pravin

    Is marriage between two gender that’s MAN and WOMEN necessary ?

    Is marriage between brother and sister valid ?

    Is marriage at all necessary ?

  • Pravin

    Solider die for “Honor” but are foolish decision of politics.

    Isn’t it “Honor” killing by Government ?

    Isn’t Government want Power by killing their own soldier.

    • Maanav

      Good line of thinking Pravin, but this is what is called as Kutark…the opposite of tark…logic…twisting to suit ones line of argument!

      Foolish of decision of politics? One becomes a Soldier by choice and is a complete conscious decision keeping in view all the perils and rewards and thus, invariably, in a way, are the property of the governament and thereby a willing tool in the hands of politicians.

      I did not make a choice and neither any mai ka laal, makes a decision to choose a family. Ok, there maybe a Karmic connection and all that Jazz..but, hell, if given a choice, which never happens…one would would be very very choosy and picky about the family one were to be born in.


      • Pravin

        Kutark…the opposite of tark…logic. :)

        Do you think we should fit this issue in LOGIC ? :D

        Well I agree with your comment, Solider must think and choose the correct side.

        They should not die for foolish “Honor”.

        My comment just for awareness no grudge ;)

      • Pravin

        Desire and/or destiny gives us choices at each situation.

        Never say, no one has choice.

        It’s just, they are not aware to pick the alternative choice in a situation.

        • Maanav

          All rite Chief!!! Peace.

  • Niveditha

    Nice article Mr Devdutt…

  • Very nice article. We call Rama as ideal for obeying the Father and sacrificing the Throne for fulfilling his commitments. In the same stroke we Call Bharat a Mahatma for exactly the opposite. For not obeying his Mother. Had he obeyed her and become king of Ayodhya he would have not been called mahatma.
    WHAT is the principle? Swami Vivekananda Explains:- One who is ready to sacrifice for the good of bigger entity is Mahatma.
    Applying this principle to the current topic- 1. No killing can be “HONOR” Those parents have no right to dictate what children should do or not do. They have a chance to give that in Sanskara right from childhood. But if you leave that responsibilty to TV you can not blame the child in the youth when judgment is governed more by heart/senses than brain/dharma.
    2. Children can not claim that they have all the right do as they want and not pay any heed to the LOGICAL wishes and expectations of the parents.
    You can not take one side as there are no two sides. Parents and children can not be pitted against each other like this.

    • Pravin

      100% agree with you.

      “HONOR” is wrapper by media to Hype the Issue.

      It’s eye/ear catchy word.

      • Vincy

        I agree with Pravin on this one. The ‘solution’ to familial/ societal issues may continue to evade us but the least the media could do in this particular issue is to dissociate “honor” from killing and report it like it is-cold blooded murder. Terming it as ‘honor killing’ almost seems to grant legitimacy to this heinous crime.

        Another brilliantly lucid article, Sir. It is a delight to read your work. :)

  • Shiv

    “”””The issue is not about obedience or tradition. The problem is that for the ‘honor-killing’ parents, children are property. “””

    I don’t support killing but I also do not like the Hype to blame Parents.

    Today, in west a 3 year kid can send his/her parents to Jail by just dialing 911 if his/her parents refused to bring Birthday Cake. And there are many cases like this. Indians are on the same track.

    • Devdutt

      All parents are not killers and not all children dial the police….these emails are revealing that Indians, or at least readers, are becoming increasingly binary (all or none, this or that)…rather than contextual (depends on situation)….Western influence?

      • Shiv

        You are correct Devdutt sir.

        My understanding. It’s Media.

        Specially NEWS Channels and Movies which influencing Indians greatly to think in Binary Mode.

      • Prakash Rao

        All tyranny stems from economic power. Traditionally parents have economic power over their children as have husbands, over their wives. Indian society appears to be undergoing the same transformation that occured in the West when women started working and children started earning money in high school.

        Economic freedom has empowered people to make decisions for themselves – often contrary to the expectations of husbands and fathers.

        I am not saying these decisions are always right, but most individuals reserve the right to make their own mistakes and that freedom to decide, even if there is a potential for mistake, is the dawn of hope for every society.

        As a father and a husband, I know letting go is very hard to do. But by letting go, we offer the freedom for our spouses and children to soar to their full potential or if not, make mistakes and learn from them so that they can improve. Either way, a stronger family results when every family member is capable and empowered to make good decisions.

        It is unrealistic to assume that husbands and fathers will always make the right decisions just as it is unrealistic to assume that wives and children are ignorant and need to be told what to do in every aspect of their lives.

      • Jai Sri Radhe!

        I find it amusing that feel a binary view would be “western” and a contextual, nuanced view would be “Indian”. My experience in both the West and the East is the exact opposite. I attribute it to the very old cultural and religious traditions that Indian contains, which often serves to carve out very defined roles and rules for individuals.

      • Sourav

        But Sir your comment is also a binary one.According to my opinion heterogeneity does not exclude binary though they have fundamental differences.Being a believer of heterogeneity one can be binary at times but according to me to be binary while being a critic of binary is not expected.

  • whatisinaname

    Dear Readers,

    this is what khalil gibran has to say “Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
    which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them,
    but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    You are the bows from which your children
    as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
    and He bends you with His might
    that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
    so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

    Which is vey true.

    Irrespective of how you bring them up they have their own thoughts, you can definitely shape their value systems, but cant delete it or reinstall like a computer s/w. Parents have to guide as it is their responsibility.

    I think people are getting insecure about every thing. We all have to contribute in our day to day life try and make that small change to influence people to make the right decisions.

    thanks! just in case you have reached to complete the full message :-)


    • Narayan

      What a lovely poem by Khalil Gibran! I think it says it all.

  • Gaurav

    I would request for a list of questions to be addressed in the processes of getting into marriage relationship. This is to ensure lasting happiness which everyone wants.

  • Rohit

    How does a parent resolve a situation where the child doesn’t listen to parent and is hell bent to break what can be called family values? Do parent not offer choice? What makes a person so stubborn that he is hell bent to do exactly what is not supposed to be done?

    • Rashmi

      If a child is hell bent on breaking the family rules….let him/her go ahead and do it. Here the parents should take the stand that they would not be responsible for the outcome of the actions of the child. Whatever happens would be the child’s responsibility. The child should also learn responsibility, should also EARN his/ her place in the society by his / her karma.

      A person becomes stubborn when he / she feels that his / her judgement(s) and thought processes are being questioned, doubted and made fun of.

  • vasant

    Very harsh and single sided. But true in most parts sadly.

  • aarthi raghavan

    i would say that both the children and the parents should understand each other.they should be open with each other so that there will be some harmony and things will go on correctly and life would be happy.

  • Vijay

    Marriage is not just between two individuals (male and female). If this was the case we may not need hindu marriage act and many marriage laws.
    Marriage is seen as union of families. I have seen marriages between castes, communities and within Gothra also. Some are successful. But families are not very supportive. Only one family is usually supportive. They do experience lot of issues within few years of marriage (not all cases). Marriages with blessing of parents can count on support of the families after the marriage.

  • Ramdas
  • Can you please tell me if the same gotra marriage is legal under hindus law and this reason holds true or not.

    Rahul Malik

  • shampa

    Dear Devdutt
    Loved your article.It is very sad that parents want RAM in their children but they never want themselves to be DASARATH.

  • Mystical Sense

    i wonder…if they so believe that they have been dishonoured, why don’t they kill themselves instead!
    humna mind…phew!!

    The pendulum of the mind alternates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong. Carl Jung