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Love can be deadly in India, crime statistics show

Relationships gone wrong accounted for the third highest number of murders in 2012.

NEW DELHI // You are more likely to be killed over a relationship than in a robbery in the state of Andhra Pradesh, according to India’s latest crime statistics.

Across the country, love-related disputes were the third most common motive for murder in 2012, after personal vendettas, which accounted for 3,877 killings, and property disputes, which led to 3,169 deaths. Affairs of the heart resulted in 2,549 killings last year, up by 184 since 2010.

In some states, “love affairs/sexual causes” accounted for the highest number of murders, according to the 2012 data released by the National Crime Records Bureau last week.

The southern state of Andhra Pradesh topped the list with 445 such murders, followed by the northern state of Uttar Pradesh with 325, and Tamil Nadu, also in the south, with 291.

The crime statistics bureau does not differentiate between murders because of relationships gone wrong and “honour” killings, despite repeated calls from activists for a separate record of crimes committed against couples who may break caste or religious barriers to marry.

Harsh Malhotra, who set up the voluntary organisation Love Commandos in 2010 to help protect young couples from their disapproving families, said the national statistics reflected what they witnessed on the ground.

“These numbers do not surprise me,” he said. “Whether it is killing in the name of unrequited love or objecting to a love affair, this is sad.”

Mr Malhotra said his organisation receives 600 to 700 phone calls every day from couples who face opposition from their families for marrying outside their caste or religion, with the most coming from Andhra Pradesh, followed by Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.

Haryana reported 50 relationship-related murders last year, while neighbouring Punjab had 83.

“We see a lot of couples who are facing death in the name of honour. Maybe it is not the parents who are outraged but neighbours, relatives. They are the ones who vow to kill in the name of love,” Mr Malhotra said.

Even after getting married, some couples “have to run like they have committed a crime”, he said.

At least 1,000 young people are killed in the name of honour every year, according to figures compiled by the All India Democratic Women’s Association.

“We have been saying for a while now that there must be a category for killings and crimes in the name of honour,” said Sudha Sundararaman, general secretary of the association.

“You cannot put numbers under love or illicit affairs and try to hide from a crime that is spreading across the country.”

The crime records bureau does keep “dowry deaths” — in which women are killed or driven to suicide for bringing an insufficient dowry to her husband’s home. The dowry can range from cash and jewellery to household appliances, automobiles and land.

There was a slight decline in dowry deaths last year, from 8,618 in 2011 to 8,233.

Uttar Pradesh reported the highest number of such incidents for the second year running with 2,244 cases, followed by Bihar with 1,275.

Even with the overall decrease, Ms Sundararaman said it still meant a bride died every 90 minutes, or that dowry issues caused 1.4 deaths per 100,000 women.

“Either way, it continues to be a sad state of affairs,” she said.

A more positive statistic from the 2012 crime report was that murders of suspected witchcraft practioners dropped by half from the previous year, from 240 to 119. Women accused of witchcraft are often humiliated before they are lynched by parading them naked in public.

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae

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