NEW DELHI – Two Muslim mothers in a northern Indian town have been arrested on accusations they killed their daughters for dishonoring the family by eloping with Hindu men, police said Sunday.
Newlyweds Zahida, 19, and Husna, 26, were strangled when they returned home after getting married to men of their choice, said Anil Kumar Kusan, a police officer.
Marriages between Hindus and Muslims are not common in India and are frowned upon by both communities, although there are more instances of inter-religious marriages among the educated urban population.
Across India, many marriages are still arranged by families. But with the booming economy and more women entering the work force, such traditions are slowly giving way to love marriages.
However, centuries-old caste and community barriers still come into play, and there has been a spurt in "honor killings" in recent years across northern India.
Zahida and Husna were neighbors in Baghpat, a town in India's Uttar Pradesh state, when they fell in love with two construction workers. They eloped and got married last week before returning home to make peace with their families, Kusan said.
The women belonged to Muslim families and their mothers, both widows, were furious, Kusan said.
Initial investigations showed that the mothers helped each other to strangle their daughters.
"We killed them because they brought shame to our community. How could they elope with Hindus? They deserved to die. We have no remorse," Khatun, one of the mothers, was quoted as saying by the Indian Express newspaper after her arrest Friday. Khatun uses only one name.
Earlier this week, India's Supreme Court recommended the death penalty for honor killings, calling the practice barbaric and feudal.
Most victims of such killings are young adults who fall in love or marry against their families' wishes. In some cases, village councils order couples killed who marry outside their caste or religion.
While there are no official figures, an independent study found around 900 people are killed each year in India for defying their elders.