Community leaders resent negative labelling

Two important community groupings have condoled the death of Ranjeeta Kumar, a 26-year-old woman who was burnt to death in Huntly near Hamilton last month, simultaneously condemning those likening the murder to the so-called ‘Honour Killing.’

Her husband, Davesh Sharma appeared at the Hamilton District Court on February 1 and will undergo psychiatric assessment before the case can proceed on charges of assault with a blunt instrument and breaching bail.

The despicable practice of ‘Honour Killing,’ which is reportedly prevalent in many parts of the world, refers to the ‘murder’ of women who are believed to have committed adultery or breached moral propriety. In India, there are cases of women being burnt alive or killed by other means for not raising money from their parents after marriage.

The charred remains of Ranjeeta were a dark reminder of extreme forms of domestic violence and not an act of Honour Killing.

But the mainstream media and some ill-informed commentators hijacked a murder giving it a different hue.

Two major community groups organised meetings to condemn both murders- that of Ranjeeta and the Indian image.

Hindu resent comment

The Hindu Council of New Zealand held the first meeting on January 27 at the Hindu Heritage Centre in the Manukau suburb of Mangere, expressing concern over the ‘negative labelling.’

A Centre Communication spoke of “targeting a particular last name and the stigmatising manner in which some community groups had been sought to be labelled as condoning Honour Killing by some fringe organisations claiming to be Indian but only seeking cheap publicity and following a bigoted agenda, sensation seeking journalists and news media.”

“One of them even went to the extent of providing complete motives and details of the crime, which even the police does not seem to have at the time when this gentleman spoke to Waikato Times, and the obliging journalist published it.

The man’s name was not mentioned, but his opinion appears in these pages.

The Centre said ‘Sharma’ is a Pan-Asian surname used by Hindus from all over the world, including North India.

“Branding in a malicious attempt to malign people with a certain surname, and the incident is even more abhorrent than the one where TV3 journalist Paul Henry mocked the surname “Dixit”, and was eventually forced to resign.

“Perhaps he escaped too lightly, since the current incident shows that no lessons have been learnt by bigoted organisations and their so called leaders, and scandalous journalists,” it said.

It said family violence and crimes of passion were serious issues that cannot be condoned and that the murder of Ranjeeta was a sad case in which the victim had earlier reached out for help.

“Sadly, it continues to afflict almost all communities in New Zealand. Seeking to malign a whole community is a crime that should be condemned and punished as well,” it said.

Tackling family violence

Waitakere Ethnic Board President Amail Habib said the murder highlighted the need for greater support for victims of domestic abuse within ethnic communities.

“We strongly condemn this tragic incident, which has nothing to do with race or culture, but violence against a woman by her partner. Alarm has been raised about the portrayal of the incident as Honour Killing by some sections of the media,” he said.

Former President Ann Pala said women suffering abuse by partners could become vulnerable, especially if they decide not to complain to the authorities or to community groups because of the ‘name and shame’ belief.

“The message, ‘Violence is not OK’ must be echoed through all communities. We can start addressing the problem only through open conversation,” she said.

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