New Delhi: A 24-year-old man was killed in his village in the Tiruvannamalai district of Tamil Nadu amidst the nationwide lockdown for allegedly marrying outside his caste.
According to a report in the Frontline, M. Sudhakar from the Morappan Thangal village belonged to the Oddar caste and had returned to his village from Chennai after the lockdown owing to fears surrounding the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. After returning to his village, he attempted to meet his wife which angered the women’s parents and relatives.
Sudhakar had married the woman six months ago at the Walajah town. While both of them belonged to groups classified as Most Backward Caste (MBC) by the state’s classification list, Sudhakar’s caste was considered to be the lowest among the MBC groups.
The woman’s family, which was opposed to the marriage, convened a local panchayat and got it to nullify the marriage and forcibly separated the couple. Sudhakar was subsequently harassed and chased away from the village. Since members from his community were in a minority in the village, they remained silent and did not question the ruling by the local panchayat.
Fearing for his life, Sudhakar’s parents, who were poor daily wage labourers, sent him to Chennai to work for a living.
The secretary of the Tiruvannamalai District Untouchability Eradication Committee, a wing of the CPI (M), P. Selvam, said that Sudhakar never visited the village since and his parents would go to the city to see him. “His parents used to go to Chennai to see him. Meanwhile, the family of the woman too had started making arrangements to marry her off to another man from their caste,” said Selvam
However, after the nationwide lockdown was announced, Sudhakar found it difficult to earn his livelihood in Chennai and returned to his village.
“But what he did subsequently had cost his life. He made an attempt to meet his wife, which infuriated the girl’s relatives and caste people,” said Selvam. When Sudhakar was alone in his village on March 27, the woman’s father, along with a relative, attacked and killed him.
Soon after, the woman’s father and the relative surrendered at the Arani Town Police station, where a case was registered.
“The government must arrest those who sat in the local panchayat that nullified the legally solemnised marriage,” said A. Kadir, executive director of the Madurai-based non-governmental organisation ‘Evidence’.
The nationwide lockdown, and the subsequent lack of employment opportunities, has created many problems for Dalits who had migrated to cities like Bangalore and Chennai to escape caste atrocities and discrimination.
G. Sugumaran from the Federation for People’s Rights told Frontline that it was incumbent upon district administrations to implement a plan to prevent casteist violence and discrimination during such circumstances.
“The respective district administrations must remain sensitive to such developments and chalk out a comprehensive plan so that those facing threats are insulated from any sort of violence,” he said and added a separate legislation was needed to punish such honour killings.