Kumar Selja in conversation: On honour killings, reservations, etc.

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The Idea Exchange, “Where is the honour in honour killings? A killing is a killing,” Indian Express, June 6, 2010.

Excerpt:

“…Most of us who come from villages subscribe to this concept of not marrying within the gotra. I do not think it is such an issue. We are Arya Samajis and the Arya Samaj has been at the forefront of social reformation. So we have always supported social change when it is for the better. We need to be forward-looking. Scientifically, you cannot dispute that marrying into the same gotra is not good. It is a complicated thing. But when these issues go to an extreme, it is wrong. Where is the honour in honour killings? A killing is a killing. You cannot take the law into your own hands, and I think the Congress is very clear on this matter: the Constitution is supreme.

…DK Singh: Do you think khap panchayats should be banned?

There are no simple answers or solutions. Khap panchayats have existed for a long time. I, too, belong to a khap. Traditionally, the khap panchayat intervened to help solve social issues. When there was marital discord, issues between families, between different villages, they would intervene to sort them out. Often, the police say, let the village elders decide such matters. On the other hand, as I said, you cannot be so drastic as to order honour killings. I do not think any right-minded khap panchayat will order that.

DK Singh: What about the demand for an amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act to ban same-gotra marriages?

 My opinion is what the Congress Party has said. There is a rule of the law in this country, there is a Constitution, and the Constitution is supreme. In the Hindu Marriage Act, they have given due space to the customary laws.

…Swaraj Thapa: In a place like Goa, you have the chief minister coming up with the most shocking statements. He said rape incidents occur because women dress in a certain manner and that they should not. He also said they should not go out too late at night. What is your message as the tourism minister and as a woman?My concern is with giving travel advisories to the tourists. Often they come from a different cultural background. This is not just for Goa but for any place. It is alright for them to dress up in a bikini and go to the hotel swimming pool. But in our cultural context, while we welcome tourists from abroad, I think we need to advise them.

Vandita Mishra: You have been in politics for nearly 20 years and this Lok Sabha has the maximum number of women. In your opinion, is there such a thing as a woman politician? Does she practise politics differently?

Personally, I have never viewed myself as a woman politician, just as a politician or as a political activist. But you do see things and do things differently. Women, I think, deal with things in a much more sensitive way.

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