By South Asia correspondent Sally Sara Posted Sun Jun 27, 2010 1:12pm AEST

A series of suspected honour killings has shocked residents in the Indian capital New Delhi. In one case, three members of the same family were killed. In another, a young couple were electrocuted and beaten to death.The country’s Supreme Court has issued an order to several state governments to take action to stop the brutal crimes.

Despite India’s galloping economic growth, some traditional beliefs are still strictly held.In some parts of northern India falling in love is one of the most dangerous things young couples can do.In many families, young adults are not allowed to marry outside their caste or within their sub-caste.When that rule is broken, fathers, brothers, uncles and even mothers can turn on their own children with unimaginable brutality.

This is the world of honour killings, where caste, status and property become more important than life itself.Pankaj Kumar Singh, a senior police investigator at Swaroop Nagar police station in New Delhi, was one of the first on the scene when young lovers Asha and Yogesh were found dead after being electrocuted and tortured.

“It was quite shocking for us,” he said.”Some of the neighbours, they tried to intervene, but they were stopped after the parents told them it was their private matter and they should not interfere.”A week later, three members of another family where killed in a suspected honour killing.Twenty-four-year-old Monica and her husband Kuldeep, who was from a lower caste, were tied up and beaten to death.

The body of another young woman from the same family, 22-year-old Shoba, was also found.Several of Monica’s relatives have been arrested for the triple murder.

‘Supported by the community’

An NGO called Shakti Vahini has lodged a request with the Supreme Court to ensure more action is taken against those responsible for suspected honour killings.”These are horrendous crimes which are all planned and are being supported by the community at large,” spokesman Ravi Kant said.”In many cases couples have been paraded naked, their heads have been shaved off. “They are humiliated. They are ex-communicated.” Members of India’s women’s movement are also horrified by what has been happening in Delhi and several states in northern India.

Ranjana Kumari, from the Centre for Social Research in New Delhi, says marriage outside of caste is still regarded as a bigger crime than murder in many some Indian communities. “I’m totally shocked and I’m appalled by the way it has been going on, and right here in Delhi – this is our national capital,” she said.”Most unfortunate and painful of the whole thing: it is the brother … the family members. “We cannot even imagine – it’s unthinkable – how it is happening.”