In defense of izzat

Tragic news came out of Yuba City, California, over the weekend, in which a Sikh woman — six months pregnant — was arrested for the murder of her 68-year-old mother-in-law:

Baljinder Kaur was arrested about 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Sutter County Sheriff’s Department following a whirlwind, two-day investigation, Sheriff J. Paul Parker said.

Kaur, 37, is the only suspect in the death of Baljit Kaur, whose body was found around noon Wednesday at the home in the 1900 block of Anthony Way where both women lived with their extended family, the Sheriff’s Department said.

…Autopsy results confirmed Baljit Kaur died of blunt force trauma to her head, the Sheriff’s Department said in a press release.

Details have not yet emerged to shed light on the circumstances that led to this tragedy.

In another report on this murder, a statement provided by the North American Punjabi Association (NAPA) in response was awkwardly focused on the impact on the reputation of the Punjabi community:

North American Punjabi Association in a statement termed it as an unfortunate incident and that these kinds of happenings is a blot on the glorious history of the community.

This fixation on reputation is related to the South Asian concept of izzat, loosely translated as a sense of family/community honor for which the perception of high-standing must be maintained.  While we obviously don’t have access to the full statement by NAPA, it seems inappropriate to sweep these situations under the rug simply to maintain our “glorious” image.  The concern should be more about the realities behind this multi-level tragedy rather than how this affects our public perception.


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