msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 5/15/2011 4:51:08 AM ET 2011-05-15T08:51:08

Two Muslim mothers have been arrested after allegedly killing their daughters for dishonoring the family by eloping with Hindu men, police in northern India 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.

Shame
The girls belonged to Muslim families and their mothers, both widows, were furious, Kusan said.

Police believe that the mothers helped each other to strangle the girls.

The mothers were unrepentant saying the girls had brought shame and dishonor to their families, police said.

"It is suspected that a few more people may be involved in the killing and the case is being investigated," Superintendent Pritinder Singh told the Press Trust of India.

Earlier this week, India's Supreme Court recommended the death penalty for perpetrators of honor killings, calling the practice barbaric and feudal.

Most victims of such honor killings were young adults who fell in love or married against their families' wishes. In some cases, village councils ordered couples killed who married inside their clan or outside their caste or religion.

While there are no official figures, an independent study found around 900 people were killed each year in India for defying their elders.

The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

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