Aamir TV guest gunned down

Nov. 26: A man who had spoken against khap panchayats on Aamir Khan's TV show Satyamev Jayate was gunned down in public at his western Uttar Pradesh village, apparently in execution of a kangaroo court's two-year-old order to kill him.

Abdul Hakim, 28, was shot on Thursday by his in-laws in the presence of several villagers at Adauli in Bulandshahr, his 25-year-old wife Mehwish alleged today.

On Aamir's show a few months ago, the couple had described how they fled to Delhi in July 2010 after a khap panchayat at Adauli ordered them killed because they had married against the wishes of Mehwish's parents.

In Delhi, Abdul worked as a driver with a private company. A fortnight ago, the couple returned to Adauli with their baby daughter, thinking they would be "forgiven" and be able to lead a normal village life.

"They shot him in the presence of so many people. They have threatened to kill me and my daughter," Mehwish told reporters from an undisclosed location where a Delhi NGO, Love Commando, has put her up.

Aamir expressed shock. "The couple were scared before coming to the show. We didn't force anyone to come to the show. The incident is highly unfortunate and shameful," he told reporters in Jaipur.

After arriving at the village, the couple had realised the atmosphere was still hostile and approached senior police officers. The officers assured them of safety but eventually did nothing to protect them, Mehwish said.

A district police officer The Telegraph contacted, however, denied any "honour killing", saying the murder was the fallout of a recent "dispute" between the two families.

"There is nothing that indicates this murder is linked to the couple's marriage," he said over the phone from Bulandshahr.

The couple had married at a local court in 2010, prompting Mehwish's family to approach a khap panchayat, Mehwish said. The illegal village council announced a Rs 50,000 cash award for whoever would carry out its order to murder Abdul and Mehwish.

Delhi police officers claimed they gave the couple protection during their stay in the capital. "They had filed a petition in Allahabad High Court and approached the NGO Love Commando," an officer said.

The so-called "honour killings" are rampant in parts of northern India, mostly over couples marrying against their families' or communities' wishes. The police have repeatedly been accused of failing to act on the threatened couples' complaints.

"Neither the Centre nor the state governments have done anything to stop these killings," said Supreme Court lawyer Ravikanth, who has filed a petition in the apex court seeking stricter punishment for khap panchayat members who order killings.

Many activists and lawyers say the Indian Penal Code's provisions are inadequate in dealing with these crimes, because they punish the plotters less harshly than the actual killers.

The law commission has recommended a new law on "honour killings" that would provide for death sentences or life terms for the murderers as well as the plotters and instigators at kangaroo courts.

Similar recommendations for a standalone law on "honour killings" have come from a Planning Commission working group.