This great country of ours, India, with its underlying theme of unity in diversity, has a rich cultural heritage of education and knowledge, and civilization. It pains me immensely to find instances of idiotic and irrational customs, based solely in religious myths and superstitions, still existing in modern day India; the pernicious influences of such customs and traditions, fuelled by religious beliefs, are not only degrading the secular principles enshrined in the Constitution of India, but also actively harming the lives of many of its citizens.
Examples abound. Let me refer to a specific and recent one: the controversy about same-gotra (sub-caste) marriages among the Jats of Haryana. It all began with the 2007 murder of a young couple, Manoj and Babli, who were kidnapped and killed for the 'crime' of falling in love and marrying within the same gotra, against the wishes of the Taliban-style local village caste council, the Khap Panchayat. Though the perpetrators were arrested, tried in a court of law and given the death sentence, they were unrepentant - as were the other Khap leaders, who went on to ostracise Manoj's mother. The Jat cops who colluded with the murderers have not been punished yet.
The capital punishment handed out to the perpetrators was meant to act as a deterrent. Yet, undeterred, the Khap chieftains recently pledged to intensify their war against same gotra marriages, and started clamoring for amending to Hindu Marriage Act to ban same-gotra marriages. Recently, in a bizarre turn of events, a young Jat soldier, belonging to the traditionally caste-less Muslim religion, has caught the ire of the Khap for marrying a Muslim girl, whom the Khap considers to belong to the same gotra - never mind the completely different religion!